New tunes: Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys

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imageProfessional fraternity man by day and roving entertainment reporter by night, Buck Cooke moved to Atlanta in 2000. Armed with a passion for pop culture and rabid appetite for music, Buck scours the entertainment landscape for treasures in music, TV and cinema.

Two of the best synth-pop groups of the 1980s — Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys — go head to head. Their releases are among the highlights in new music this week.

imageARTIST: Depeche Mode
TITLE: “Sounds of the Universe”

The Dark Lords of the Synth are back with their signature sound on a new album. This time the Brits are armed with some of the tools used in the past to craft cutting edge tracks.

Drum machines and analog synthesizers provide a retro feel, though the songs themselves have a modern edge. “Wrong” starts things off in a big way with dramatic builds and, of course, dark, dark beats. The rest of the album traipses through various sounds, from ambient to industrial, giving fans some of the group’s strongest material.

There are multiple versions of the album available as a physical product or online, including a boxed set with a book and multiple live and bonus tracks. There are some kick-ass remixes of “Wrong” on the album pass for the deluxe version of “Sounds of the Universe” on iTunes (along with some other tracks). But the price is pretty high, so let’s hope for a single release in the near future.

The band recently announced dates for their Tour of the Universe, which takes them across the globe and to Atlanta’s Lakewood Amphitheater on Sept. 1.

imageARTIST: Pet Shop Boys
TITLE: “Yes”

As much as Depeche Mode is known for dark synth-pop, the Pet Shop Boys are known for giving their pop a little something extra. It might be some drama, darkness or just a good-times track coming at just the right moment in pop culture.

“Love, Etc.” is multilayered and does a great job previewing what fans will find on the album: expertly produced dance music with relevant lyrics and slick sounds. If “Did You See Me Coming?” isn’t released as a single, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe need to be institutionalized. The track is uplifting while also packing some serious thump in its bouncing beats. “Vulnerable” is dreamy and “King of Rome” is beautiful and relaxing, but the rest of the album comes dance floor-ready.

Album closer “Legacy” brings things to a screeching halt, though. While the track offers brilliant lyrics, its overall vibe is that of a funeral dirge gone techno. Some fans may consider that genius, but it brings things down when you’re listening to the album as you drive.

Like Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys give fans multiple versions of the album online and in stores, including one with several mixes of some of the album tracks on one version.

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