Beginning in the late 1970’s, NewWave took the world by storm. With its roots in punk and noise pop but being able to keep its sound within the mainstream, it attracted massive attention from all corners of the music community.
From Morrissey’s angelic screams to the first use of computerized beats, it would change how we define music for decades to come. For all of the over-produced work that came out of the 80’s, there are some very good musical creations that you need in your vinyl collection.
Best New Wave Albums to Buy
Here are 13 must have new wave albums that should be considered for any vinyl fan’s collection.
1 . The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys (1979)
The debut album of The Cure is minimal. Simple. Innocent. But what makes this album a must have for a vinyl collection is it’s place in New Wave history. Coming out in the the summer of 1979, it’s place within the New Wave genre is early and this reflects in the music.
The near primal, uncomplicated structure; guitar popping, punk-inspired-drumming, and vocals, that can only be described as pure brit noise-pop, allow listeners to experience the formation of something that was undefined in 1979.
Whether you have a high-quality turntable or a Urban Outfitters piece-of-junk Crosley, this album will crackle through your systems with distinction. The Cure wears its influences on their sleeve, proudly I’ll add, but are able to fall into their own groove of the movement with great success.
2. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
This would not be a true New Wave ‘must have’ list without the Talking Heads. Lead by David Byrne, this band truly pushed the boundaries of genre; refusing to be nailed down or labeled by audiences.
By the premier of Stop Making Sense, a visual experience like never before, Talking Heads had already cemented their spot as one of the best bands of the 1980’s, if not the latter half of the century. They began in 1977 with the album titled Talking Heads 77 , which was met with some critical success and was able to reach audiences with their song “Psycho Killer.”
Three albums later in 1980, Remain in Light was released and is considered one of Talking Heads best. With their growth in band membership and quality of production, this album is what I like to call the ‘in-between’. It’s in between when a band loses lyrical quality and love for their sound but allows for all the resources the band may want for their finished product.
This is why vinyl is the best medium for Remain in Light; listenability from song to song is strong and what will come out of your shelf speakers will be as crisp as a Granny Smith.
3. The B-52’s – The B-52’s (1979)
This debut album by The B-52’s kicks off with “Planet Claire”, a song that lets the listener know that this band is from a different planet. Their mixture of classic dance surfer rock, blues, and punk creates musical bubble wrap; it’s loud and obnoxious but addictively fun.
Their lyrics poke fun at what came pre-beatles but is also able to squarely fit within the New Wave movement. Rolling Stone named this album the 28th best debut album of all time. They are able to be themselves to the fullest yet succeed with critics and audiences alike.
4. New Order – Power, Corruption, and Lies (1983)
“Age of Consent”, which is the first song on this album by the New Wave legends New Order, could be considered one of the best New Wave songs to date. It’s upbeat drumming style and racing guitar plucking would get anyone tapping their feet.
With their first album more of Joy Division mimicry gone awry, this album has strong vocals, more use of technology that would go on to be synonymous with the New Wave movement, and a cleaner feel to it’s style. Their lyrics dip into the mundane of everyday life which is a style of writing that was new to the mainstream world of music.
Please, your turntable has been begging you, silently, for you to get this album. It’s clean, upbeat, and was recently re-issued in 180 gram for premium listening.
5. The Police – Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
The Police, though led by one of the greatest lead singers of the late 20th century, was blessed by the heavens above to have Stewart Copeland as a drummer. His style is like nothing before. Utilizing his kit to its absolute full potential, the sounds that were created in that recording room was a mystifying whirlpool of musical ecstasy.
To be able to hear the soothing voice of Sting backed with the kicks and snares of Stewart through a high-quality setup is what life was made for. Yes, their classic hits “Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon” are on this album but gems not known to a majority of the public like “Bring on the Night”, which showcases some great guitar rhythms, and “The Beds Too Big Without You” are great listens for a sunny Sunday.
6. The Smiths – Meat is Murder (1985)
The Smiths were different. Simple as that. The Morrissey/ Marr combination allowed for some of the most interesting and hypnotic tunes to come out of the 1980’s. Springing from Manchester in 1982, both Morrissey and Johnny Marr had experience in the music scene.
Morrissey writings spanned hundreds of pages, ready for songs and Johnny’s history with classic rock and funk allowed for four albums of distinct, pure New Wave sound that never wavered from their instinctual vision. Their subjects touching on romance, shameless slander, and the daily struggle of living resonated well with audiences and would allow their music to live, successfully, for decades.
If you consider yourself a music connoisseur, this album should be in-between “The Queen is Dead” and your Stan Getz collection.
7. Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978)
New Wave came from multiple genres meeting somewhere in the middle. Punk, noise pop, funk, goth rock, and surf rock all has something say when New Wave is on the table and this album really does show it’s roots.
The Scream, giving a strong nod to The Velvet Underground, is a great early entry into the catalogue of New Wave. Coming out in 1978, you can hear the typical 80’s pop voice with rhythmic guitar crackling but also is loose enough to be considered alternative rock or even post-punk.
If you are interested in the history of music and how certain genres come to be, this album is a must have for your hi-fi turntable.
8. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
The Stone Roses came into the music scene towards a time when New Wave was fading into the musical-less mainstream and Seattle sound was becoming the new and interesting underground movement. Even though The Stone Roses show a significant influence from the New Wave movement, their sound also shows adaptation to the times.
Heavy guitar replaces the slim, guitar plucking made popular a decade before but the hypnotic vocals stay. This combination creates a platform for bands that became popular later in the 1990’s such as Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. “I Wanna Be Adorned” sets up their album in a way that allows for a climb; dark, grungy to New Wave pop. It’s a great transformation over a 12 song album worth owning on vinyl.
9. David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983)
David Bowie was a musician that was able to create sounds synonymous with any decade with a snort and a blow of his magnificent wisdom. His 1983 creation Let’s Dance pushed his music into a different realm.
Before this album, his music, though evolving for the times, had strong roots in glam rock. Let’s Dance is a complete transformation of Bowie’s self. This is what made him such a great musician. He was able to understand that transformation, done well, is necessary for prolonged success in the music scene.
Every song on this album could be a hit but the three songs that would become his most successful singles were “Modern Love”, “China Girl”, and “Let’s Dance”. Bowie creates a space for elated movement for audiences. Every song is upbeat, fun, and pure addiction. This album is a must for any sizable vinyl collection as long as you already own Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity.
10. R.E.M – Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
Michael Stipes’ vocals and Peter Bucks’ guitar playing set this band apart from a majority of alternative, New Wave acts of the day. Beginning in 1983 with Murmur, their climb to mainstream success would take almost a decade.
Their distinctive style of swinging vocals and clandestine guitar rhythms took awhile for audiences to find attractive but this never stopped R.E.M from losing what they saw as inherently good sound. Fables of Reconstruction, being the third album by R.E.M, is a creation that comes as a clean and thought out project by the band worth your time.
It’ll sound amazing on a Project Debut Carbon or a LP-60 Audio Technica, it’s all about if your speakers will go to 11.
11. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)
Coming out in 1978, it isn’t exactly pure New Wave but it’s place in the movement is definitely worth noting. Blondie, led by vocalist Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, was a band that didn’t reach critical acclaim until their release of Parallel Lines.
Debbie’s beautiful singing and the mesmerizing yet soothing beats created by the 5-piece band resonates as an album ready for the 1980’s. It has a filling quality to it that isn’t necessarily outrageous for the time but the song “Fade Away And Radiate” truly shows their transformation into the genre of New Wave.
It’s mixture of glam rock and noise-pop which creates a platform for this band to jump off of for the decade to come. The layering of multiple guitars and a heavy bass would fill any set of speakers so do yourself a favor and get this album on vinyl.
12. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
The Cure is considered a band synonymous with the words ‘New Wave’. Their dreamland style adapted in the mid-1980’s due to their label from critics as goth pop-rock, following Pornography in 1982, allowed listeners to find both love and sadness in this band’s discography.
Their romantic lyrics paired with the slow rolling of Smiths’ and Gabrels’ guitar plucking allows for a musical project meant only for the ears of people in love. “Lovesong” encapsulates The Cures’ want for a purgatory of happiness and disdain for life while “Pictures of You” shows their understanding of the beauty that this world has to offer.
If you are a New Wave lover, you will have The Cure in your collection. This album should be in that collection alongside the red vinyl of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and The Head On The Door.
13. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
This album by The Smiths put out in the summer of 1986 is considered the best album to come out of the 1980’s by a multitude of publications including NME, who named it the best album to ever be produced. Morrissey turned up his ridiculousness by making fun of most everything this world has to offer and Johnny performs to his full potential with incredible guitar rhythms.
The first song to kick off the album titled “The Queen is Dead” repeats over and over again “Life is very long when you’re lonely” which contradicts the Morrissey creed of living life to the fullest by screwing with everyone in his view. In “Frankly, Mr. Shankly”, Morrissey talks about his yearning to become a musical legend but also pokes fun at the fact that his legacy will be remembered through pieces of plastic.
In “Cemetry Gates”, Morrissey talks about his followers and their love of romantics. He says “So you meet me at the cemetry gates, Keats and Yeats by your side while Wilde on mine”. John Keats is poet popularized during the romanticized movement in the United Kingdom while Oscar Wilde broke societal rules talking about the realities of life.
Morrissey’s knowledge and lyrical depth paired with incredibly dense songs structured by Johnny Marr allows for something not easily crafted again. As far as I am concerned, this album should be a prized vinyl in any solid collection.
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