80s nostalgia has now lasted longer than the actual 1980’s. It shows no sign of stopping. Thank god.
Synthwave is a sub-genre of electronic music very dear to our hearts, one we’ve written about many times before. 2019 was another banner year for the synthwave scene, and here are ten essential synthwave tracks from all around the world.
A couple of honurable mentions first: Freiburg based experimenters Cook & Stans had a wonderfully ominous tune with ‘Berlin’, and Starcadian’s ‘New Cydonia’ may be the closest we’ll ever get to ‘Africa – Part II’.
So without further ado…Krosia – Azur
Crisp, gleeful, bouncy dreamwave. The debut single from French musician Loic Pichard, ‘Azur’ captures the spirit of a breezy summer afternoon. The simple ethos of the song is that we should live in the moment, as underlined by the tasteful Ferris Bueller sample. Not content to ride a groove out to its conclusion, ‘Azur’ progresses through a series of hooks and tasty synth loops. Absolute bliss.
Konrad Celinski – Luminance
Attempts to take synth music into outer space often end up more like the Challenger than Vostok 1, but Polish whizzkid Konrad Celinksi reaches escape velocity on ‘Luminance’. The use of space race samples recall the band Public Service Broadcasting, but the arrangement is more of the zero-g funk Konrad is known for. Robotic bass shudders beneath stacks of tasteful synth pad and an edgy, skipping beat.
Mitch Murder – Hardwired
After several in-roads into a variety of passion projects including a single sampling Bob Ross and an EP soundtracking an imagined Wall Street trader circa 1983, elusive Swede Mitch Murder took things darker on Hardwired. It’s a fantastic EP, recalling the moody atmosphere of his track ‘Interceptor’. Perfect night drive soundtrack. Just go easy on the gas.
You Drive – Cracked Plate
The debut album from Makeup & Vanity Set / Jasmin Kaset collab was absolutely sublime, and this is the best track. ‘Cracked Plate’ combines quirky indie pop with synthwave sheen. The offbeat chorus is understated and opts for personality over pop bombast. Synthwave meets coffee shop indie, and the blend is sumptuous.
Daniel Deluxe – Territory
Nobody does mood quite like Daniel Deluxe. With little more than a thudding beat and distorted bass, the dark electro artist is able to conjure up an atmosphere of swaggering dread. The choppy production and buzz of samples and loops only add to a song keyed to the random buzz of TV static.
Timecop1983 – Neon Lights (feat. Josh Dally)
Timecop is beloved in the community for a reason. He can evoke the feeling of wonder and heartache, often at the same time. However with On The Run the focus is shifted from warm summer nights to rainy city streets. ‘Neon Lights’ features the gated drum effects he has perfected, along with wonderfully bittersweet vocals from Josh Dally. The chorus is a career best – evoking longing and regret through the nothing more than a lonely London hotel room and the comforting sight of rain-flecked neon.
DJ Ten – Viral Lust (feat. Trevor Something)
Getting the enigmatic Trevor Something to feature was a great boon, but ‘Viral Lust’ has a wicked character all its own. DJ Ten’s thesis on hookup culture (demonstrated in excruciating detail on the MV) operates over a portentous bass loop and a tinkling melody with a sinister sheen. “She’ll do anything…for the likes” is as simple, punchy and potent as any chorus released all year. Something very special.
Dana Jean Phoenix – Red Line
Synth scene-setter DJP had one of the strongest albums of the year with PixelDust, but this is the prime cut. The juddering, jagged synth bass is captured in stunning clarity, and Dana has fun working lines around it. Sugar-coated vocals counterbalance the gnarly growling energy of the tune. As she’s fond of saying: keep it retro.
Jordan F – Overdrive
Pure euphoria courtesy of the Sydney based musician. ‘Overdrive’ captures the giddy thrill of cruising a highway at night, on the way into the city for a night of rooftop cocktails. The stiff boom of the drums rubs nicely on the rubbery bass, and the instrumental breaks and introduction of emulated guitar is sheer class.
The Midnight – Kids
‘America 2’ is a wonderful, dreamlike interpretation of and escape from the current state of American society. It is so simple and yet so charming and personal, and told through a series of sharply written vignettes teeming with detail and vitality.
The Midnight have long been drawn to the bittersweet tang of nostalgia, but not nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. The duo really understand what it mean’s to miss something, someone, a place in time.
‘America 2’ is nostalgic for a place that never existed, and that you too feel the twinge of longing is a testament to the songwriting. It’s perfectly in-keeping with the accompanying album’s theme of the 80’s through the eyes of a child. In 2018 the idea of a second chance, a fresh start, or an America 2, has seemed all the more appealing – this is ”Born to Run” for the iPad generation.