Top 10 Retrowave Collaborations of 2020
Fixing Me With Love by Sunglasses Kid & Primo the Alien One of perhaps the most exciting trends in synthwave these past few years has been a greater emphasis on rhythmic elements and an almost optimistic tendency from the vocalists in the scene. “Fixing
Fixing Me With Love by Sunglasses Kid & Primo the Alien
One of perhaps the most exciting trends in synthwave these past few years has been a greater emphasis on rhythmic elements and an almost optimistic tendency from the vocalists in the scene. “Fixing Me With Love” has both of these in full force in a killer track with one of the best choruses of the year hands down. When the drums drop out and Primo’s voice shares the spotlight with the chiming melodies from Sunglasses Kid the song lures you in further before everything in the song hits even harder.
Overload (ft. Tokyo Rose) by Tonebox
On January 1, 2020, the grim music video for Overload by Tonebox featuring the always impressive Tokyo Rose debuted on NRW’s channel. Little did we know that bloodbath video would tonally be a match for the year the world seems to have been collectively having. Video aside, the song is a moody and atmospheric piece which builds a foreboding atmosphere from beginning to end and doesn’t sound like it would be out of place on some acid house alternate universe version of Akuma.
Synthian (ft. LAU) by NINA
The titular track from NINA’s album from this past June shows why the German singer is and has been such a sought after vocal commodity in the retrowave scene. This time paired with a more laid back and more hip-hop inspired beat for much of the song, everything here elicits a dreamy energy that makes it something truly special.
A New Quest (Droid Bishop Remix) by Magic Sword
I’m not sure how fair it is to include a remix on a collaborations list, but come on, it’s Magic Sword, one of the most phenomenally consistent acts in the scene. And who is remixing? Only Droid Bishop, another one of the most accomplished artists in the scene, and one who released a serious AOTY contender this past September. The “A New Quest” remix fuses the ethereal with the triumphant, creating the rare and odd feeling of a round of applause greeting you in a liminal space.
Work It Out by Team Sweatwave
As a species, we are far, far too cruel to one another to have deserved something as great and incredibly fun as the Team Sweatwave album from May 2020. You can argue that this is more of a supergroup than a collaboration, but let’s not get pedantic about it, nerd. Polemic Heart’s vocals on “Work It Out” are one of the most unique and hook-laden vocals of the year, unquestionably. In fact, the synth work and guitar work by the collaborative team of Turbo Knight, YORU, Dimi Kaye, Gryff, and Polemic Heart is really something magical. It’s no surprise that some of these artists are going to show up later in this list.
Funk All Night Long (ft. Yasmina) by Zyodara
Remember what I said earlier about the heightened focus on funk and rhythmic expression in the scene? “Funk All Night Long” is what you get if you push that to a Solid Gold extreme. There’s groovy syncopation throughout the track, and impeccable control of space, and a restrained and soothing vocal performance that pulls listeners through the nearly 4 minute funky romantic bop.
Let’s Get Wild (ft. Dimi Kaye) by Yoru & Turbo Knight & Syst3m Glitch
Hello Yoru, Turbo Knight, and Dimi Kaye! It’s been a while (in a very dude-from-Staind voice)! Some of the folks from earlier in this list are joined by the excellent Syst3m Glitch and have crafted perhaps the most montage-worthy song from the scene this year. It has a vocal performance that’s unique and alternates between a standard delivery of catchy hooks and the occasional flair for the dramatic. The energy here is always at a high, and we’re all luckier because of it.
Sunset Strip by Veeshy & Phonic Youth
I’m going to level with you. I wasn’t really following Veeshy or Phonic Youth. When I first heard “Sunset Strip” about a month ago that changed. This song is dreamy in a way that most synthwave tracks aspire to, with a masterful control of automated effects and layering throughout. In a year that was notably strong with vocal-based tracks, “Sunset Strip” is still an absolute standout.
Reverse by Primo the Alien & Gryff
Sometimes I’ll listen to an artist who makes only instrumentals and fantasy cast vocalists for the artist. I almost always imagine Gryff, and with the quality of the tracks they’ve released this year, it’s easy to want Primo the Alien to be the voice on tracks as well. You can only imagine the enthusiasm with which I smashed that play button in August when “Reverse” came out, a collaboration between two of the best that the scene has to offer. The fact that the two powerhouses to share the spotlight on the track and never allow it to feel cluttered, and even make space for a crooning saxophone solo that will have you making that face that looks like you smelled something bad when you really just heard a saxophone lick that friggin’ rips. Urgh. Just seriously listen to this song if you haven’t yet.
Her Broken Smile (ft. Tessa Hedrick) by DEADLIFE
I like optimism in my synthwave. I think I’ve been pretty clear with that particular preference in this list. But do you want to know something I like even more? When an artist completely seems to throw out convention. “Her Broken Smile” has moments of hyperpop and glitch and industrial music sprinkled throughout, and it’s anchored by an absolutely showstopping vocal performance. It has just enough weird elements sonically and enough hooks that when it starts to veer into unconventional composition territory, you are completely hooked and need more. The subtleties and maximalism of the song makes it feel like music for the edge of the abyss. And what could be more appropriate for 2020. Hope you don’t disappear.