Starlight Mints – The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of (2000). Very poppy, instrumentally varied, carefully produced 80’s-style orchestral pop, led by a frontman who’s clearly imitating the Pixies’ Frank Black. They made a second LP but I don’t have it, so no rec of that one from me. Allmusic gave both LPs three stars, FWIW. If you miss Pixies and mid-period XTC, and always wondered what they might sound like mashed together, you might like the 'Mints.
Bis was (they disbanded in '02) a hyperactive, precocious Scottish trio that started releasing albums in 1997, when their average age was 20. Obsessed with anime and the “Hello Kitty” side of Japanese junk culture, skateboarding, fast food, cheesy science fiction movies, and Quentin Tarentino, Bis, who went by the noms-de-plume of “Manda Rin,” “John Disco,” and “Sci-fi Steven,” could almost have been engineered by an ad agency as a stealth advert for Ritalin. They’d have been utterly despicable if their naive, toy-instrument brand of pop-punk wasn’t so much fun to listen to. The production style is… loud. (This ain’t subtle stuff.) As for recommended picks, you probably can’t go wrong – or, arguably, right – with any of their releases. If you like Bis, you might like the early B-52’s, the Japanese pastiche artist Cornelius, or junior high school.
Alfie (several albums). Lovely, well-crafted pop, often with acoustic leanings, and frequently indulging in instrumentals. Alfie reminds me of the 80’s bands that had fun with '60’s psychedelic revival, just as 80’s-style synth-driven pop was reaching its creative nadir – after New Wave, but before the advent of 90’s grunge. Allmusic has Alfie pegged as “neo-psychedelia,” but it might be just as accurate to call them “retro-psychedelia redux,” or “neo-retro-psychedelia,” or somesuch. If you like Alfie, you’d probably also like Gomez (their debut’s probably their best).