Top 2020 Newcomers of Retrowave and BEYOND
Synth-fam, it’s that time of year. The end of 2020 is nigh. We’re leaving it behind on a high note and looking back on the community we’ve built together. We all love our die-hard classics, our fan favorites, and trustworthy Go-To’s that we set on
Synth-fam, it’s that time of year. The end of 2020 is nigh. We’re leaving it behind on a high note and looking back on the community we’ve built together. We all love our die-hard classics, our fan favorites, and trustworthy Go-To’s that we set on repeat. However, it’s time to usher in a new era of talent that resides among us and has been hiding in the shadows. Allow me to introduce you to your new addictions in their well-deserved moment of glory as Top 2020 Newcomers of Synthwave and BEYOND!
It’s both an honor and a privilege to be able to showcase these incredible gems that I’ve stumbled across! I tripped and fell into their world and once these tracks hit my ears, I knew that I had to share them with you!
After a rough year filled with challenges and obstacles, we’re celebrating those who took 2020’s que to create more than we take for granted. A series of artists who have hit the ground running and decided to finally release their very first EPs and Albums for the masses to enjoy!
I’ll be sharing two tracks from each artist to highlight for your audiophilic pleasure.
I’ll even link them for you! All you have to do is listen and vibe.
Without further delay – let’s discover what lies ahead of the curve of Synthwave’s rising progression.
[Setting: Moscow, Russia]
Microsha ’89s sound is a recipe for recognition. With synthy smooth melodies, dazzling arpeggios, and nostalgic possession taking over their percussion, I’m as pleased as a peach that they’re part of the scene. They began with a concept EP called Soviet Union and from there I was hooked. Most artist’s first EPs do not fully encompass their talent. More often than not – it’s likely not very good. This is the entire opposite of that. This is gold. My top two tracks are from their latest release, Rain, which embodies their instrumental genius and corners us into a place where addiction is the only escape.
What grabs hold of me is the richness of the evocative electric guitar. The fluidity of the synth beckons us to listen closely before the percussion kicks in – demanding our attention to dial in. The track speeds up mildly but keeps us at a standstill while all else is moving in perfect synchronicity. It doesn’t force us to move or dance just yet, it’s energy comes from the moment we’re in right now. The groove comes naturally, and before you know it you’re finally swaying and nodding your head to the beat.
When I’m listening to this track, I’m reminded of summer showers, despite the fact that it’s winter right now. You can visualize the angelic rays as the clouds begin to part. The glimmer of raindrops fall and hit the pavement to the beat. The synth guides us towards the ascension of the bridge, and the warmth of the chords against our ears is instilling the memory of those rainy days of Summer. The melody is one we won’t be able to forget, even after the song ends. As the thunder claps alongside the reverb of a cheerful chorus, it reminds us to keep smiling through the worst days. Better days are on the horizon if you just keep listening to the music.
[Setting: Istanbul, Turkey]
Out of the depths of the dark synth world, a new ruler ascends. One that doesn’t need your typical horror movie concepts, ritualized figures of what we define as “evil”. Such as a random Baphomet or symbol of Satanism. Not even your basic zombie raid soundtrack has anything on this! The “dark” theme is much more real, and much closer than you realize. Silicon Empire ushers in the subtlety of suspense, the arch of a technological takeover, and the guttural grunge of the gaping void in our minds. A modern industrial age is among us – and it’s heard in the synthetic coils of sound, the distorted elements of mind-altering audio effects, the pitch of a short circuit, and the depths of a guitar’s serenade. What began as a primarily ambient album called Umut, has now evolved into a complementary soundtrack to your digital dystopia: A Journey in the Network.
When I first heard this track, it brought upon an unnerving sense of disarray. Something lurking but unseen. The way the keys are they’re played on the synth instills an unfulfilled desire to uncover the unknown torture. It is heard in the inescapable edging of emotion of tantalizing tunes. You want to keep listening, don’t you? The stale air of decay is matched with the bass and the transition of the melody. There is a chime leading you closer to that alternate state of being. Eventually, we’re in the underbelly of soundwaves, enraptured by the web of strings and glitchy effects. This is what it sounds like to live in a technologically dominated atmosphere.
I get it. You want something harder. Something faster. Well, imbibe in this track with me. Let the bass shake you to your core. In the wake of this bodiless, unseen entity is the chaos that ensues internally. The fragments are within the fast-paced arpeggio, and the pitch change glitches into our comfort zone. What was once the stillness of an echo, is now awakened by the reverberating roar of synth. We move down-tempo into the endless expanse of our ego, as it engages with the enticing embrace of strings and leaves us to lie in our very own existential abyss.
[Setting: Caracas, Venezuela]
We live in a world of synthwave where we are tired of hearing the same ol’ pattern, bridge, and chorus. We’re tired of facing the problem that synthwave oftentimes is guilty of. We crave that which sets us apart from traditional genres. In comes Otrebor, a truthfully enigmatic beacon of what is both old and new. Entrance yourselves with a fresh sound, where each element is a reflection of the afterthought of musical focus. This is an artist that suppresses all that we consider vital within this niche of music. You don’t have to be an 80’s kid, you don’t have to have listened to every 80’s album ever released, and you don’t have to conform to what people tell you are the foundations of building the right sound with a synth to emulate “the good ol’ days.” So get used to it, and listen to what’s coming next without being afraid of the future generation. It’s killer, and it belongs on your playlist. I’m showcasing his album Loneliness and SOSIEGO for this segment.
Otrebor calls himself an “Emotional Electronic” artist. Think of the emotions you feel when you’re beckoned to dance, feel the tingling sensation crawl up your spine, and let go. A rhymic rise enters the confines of your eardrums, and with it is an episodic version of an emotional sense within a distinct memory. The static noise fry introduces the welcomed repetition of electronic chords, and the plummet of the chorus causes it to go back from where we first started.
For those that want something with teeth, I welcome you to listen along. The start of the track is all attitude with an electronic entrance of mood-inducing keys. The trilling of chimes gets us past the rise, and a kick-drum strikes first into a KO of powerful percussion. Do you hear that? Is that…nostalgia in another form? It isn’t basic, predictable, or repetitive. It is intertwined with the modern enigma of what the future holds for the genre. Dare I say it, it’s actually good and doesn’t take me back in time, it takes me to the right here and now in a good way. To avoid or refuse this next level vibe that is filling your ears is just a resistance of rhymic evolution.
4) Nikita Scion
[Setting: Hamburg, Germany]
The rapture of new artists continues, and Nikita Scion is making their mark on this list. I only have to tell you once, that this artist is a legend in the making. If you enjoy aggressive arpeggios, the roar of an electric guitar, and synthy, elaborate electronic melodies – then keep an eye on their progress. Nikita Scion entered the scene with a banger – Spectre Unleashed – and has since released one hit after another. Listen for yourself, and let us know what you think as you travel to unexpected territories within your concept of musical reality.
The opener for this track glides into a guitar riff, easing us into a dazzling array of keys. I can’t help but feel energetically in sync with the way this track was arranged. Nothing feels repetitive, and each bridge and arch leads me to something new and exciting. The way the percussion integrates with the charismatic chords sends thrills and shivers throughout my body and dancing is the only response I can manage.
At the start, I am immediately transported into Castlevania and I have no idea why. It might not have anything to do with what inspired this track, but it does remind me of Symphony of the Night specifically. In any case, that’s not a bad thing at all, and as we exchange vibes from nostalgic video games to vicious vibratos, I’m intrigued nonetheless. The percussion wakes me up just as the saxophone solo kicks in. Seriously, the transitions just lift another layer of the veil behind Nikita Scion’s talent. I never want to part ways with it. Let me just say “You’re Welcome” in advance, because I know I just inflicted your latest obsession upon you with 100% certainty that you’ll enjoy it.
5) STATIC ANGEL
[Setting: Somewhere in the, UK]
There is more left to come and the volume on your end needs to be turned up to the max for a sensational experience to shake the walls of your perspective. STATIC ANGEL is next on our list and they’re breaking the mold. Imagine if Synthwave and Dubstep had a baby and named it Synthstep, but it lives a double life as a Chilltrap Queen. This amalgamation of style, talent, and experimental electro has my knees buckling for more.
Things start off calm enough with a distorted rise, an eclectic arpeggio, and a trap-like kick drum. It’s all over once the bass takes over, and with all the elements combined, alongside a female voice, there’s no turning back. With each and every chime, chord, and key, I’m left dumbfounded at this familiar yet unfamiliar territory of tasteful rhythms. The emotion of the vocalized harmony entangles me into a fit of yearning. I want more of this. Much more.
Distorted Noise fry. Kick. Snap. Vocals. Que that shattering bass that makes me quiver just right, and it’s a party. I’m obliged to obliterate my eardrums with this track repeatedly. Once the bridge arrives, the hum of the reverb meets the myriad of vocalized echoes. Then, we’re snapped back to attention thanks to that assertive clap. The delicate effects in conjunction with the grungey distortion are wrapped up and delivered to you into the voice of an angel. A Static Angel.
[Setting: Cincinnati, OH]
I invited some friends to the party, and while we’ve covered dark synth, synthwave, and some elements of things new and different, I may as well give the vaporwave scene some new vibes to lounge to! Introducing NØVMBR, the hottest sound to hit the airways since HOME disappeared. (Seriously, where is that guy?) Anyway, this next arrangement of sounds will astound and delight you with their dissonant chords, warbling midi-effects, and nostalgic ambiance. It’s enough to make me miss being a mallrat.
Allow the dazzling arpeggio to carry you up-tempo as the BPM hastens. Dancing along your mind are colorful chords trailing into the fry of noise. This is what obsessions are made of. We get that classic synth effect we hold so dear in the vaporwave scene, and the drum pads take us beyond reach. With every transition, there is something new to hear, a new detail to uncover. Leave no form of sound ignored. The horns announce their entrance and the rise begins to set a new stage. Finally, the chime of a new melody starts and ends just before we meet that luring arpeggio. Like an old friend, you miss just before they’ve gone.
Dark by Six feat. Sorcery
The next track to compliment your playlist is effortlessly mood-enhancing. I can see those SimpsonWave YouTuber’s adopting this as the newest addition to their strange yet soothing aesthetic. I’m enamored with the way this track progresses from familiarity to a spin in its own direction. The altering pitches from one segment to the next is like pulling back the curtain to a whole new sound. There are nuances to what you’ve heard before, but they stand out in the details mixed into each track.
7) Flight 328
[Setting: Chicago, IL]
I’m going to say it out loud and proud – I’m shamelessly sharing this artist as Synthwave’s next vocal sensation. You’d think this Synth duo arrived on the scene in a time machine. With vocals as their backbone, Austin Deadman and Tara Cruz deliver a time capsule of sounds that most artists wish they could replicate. I’d closely define their sound as synthpop meets 80s movie ballads, but with room to explore. Seriously, I get chills listening to Austin Deadman and Tara Cruz belt out and serenade from track to track. Not only is it rich with what I call “remastered-nostalgia”, but it has that classic cadence we remember from the 80s greatest hits era. Either way, raise the volume, and familiarize yourself with the newest faces among the crowd of vocalists with instrumental talent, Flight 328.
Don’t Want to Change Your Mind (FM-84 Cover)
It’s an aching, heart tangling sensation with Austin’s voice elevating this cover. Ollie Wride would dig this, even if it’s his lyricized co-creation with FM-84, with a smile on his face, and a tear in his eye. Nothing could have made this track better, and yet, I find myself at a standstill. Not in the way of wondering which is better than the other, but the fact that there are new elements to highlight about what made it incredible from the start. Along with an acoustic adoration, this newly packaged model is one that I couldn’t have expected. I’m in love with the heartbeat of this song. I can feel every emotion as it intensifies in the tone and pitch that Austin applies to it. Que the lighters and hold the flame up high.
I Wanna Know
I promised the classic ballad feel that I described before, and here it is. With powerful, belt-worthy, purpose-filled lyrics, Austin and Tara make way for exactly what die-hard synthwave fans crave: a soundtrack that transports them from present to past. The reverb, the echo, the keys, all of it together at the introduction beams down from under the spotlight. The electric guitar brings us back. It’s that water drop effect, isn’t it? Half of the time, I can’t believe what I’m hearing – and even though I feel familiar with the nuances, it hits me that this is actually new. Tara Cruz’s incredible voice breaks that sense of comfort with a solo verse, and we’re cradled into the classics again. A gentle piano, the maracas, the symbols, the finger snap, it’s all there. Waiting for you to recognize it for what it is, and realize it’s here to stay.
8) Canyon Crows
[Setting: Scotland, UK]
As a synthwave connoisseur, (Aren’t we all?) I’d like to usher in this new artist into the fold. It’s easy to love anything Canyon Crows has released so far. In the case of their previous release FICTION, their flexibility is beyond a singular concept. In addition to the ambient synthscapes that we know and love, they’re also dedicated to a darker Mallsoft vibe, which is highlighted in their recent release Bad JuJu. It’s been difficult to pick just two tracks for any artist, not to mention separating albums from one vibe to the next, but I really have to highlight the differences for this one in particular so that you can place your personal pick on which vibe you prefer. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Some tracks gently bleed into the next, and Canyon Crows achieves this beautifully.
Is it just the intro? Is it more than just a phase? It is going to last a lifetime? I can get used to this mood. I really enjoy the ethereal embrace that atmospheric synth tracks provide. It’s like I’m descending deeper into another world…or outside of it. It’s an audio-visual experience when I can focus on a scene in my mind and listen closely to the music. The horns and reverb seep into the void and reflect off of the stars outside of my reach. Slipping further into a figment of my imagination with each wail of the synth. It’s simplistic, yet complex all at once, as the echo of a phone ringing tries to impede on my focus. I answer, but I never know who it is…
Speaking of anonymous phone calls. Let’s say Jacket from Hotline Miami invites you over to a local abandoned mall that’s been infiltrated by a group of rogue gang members. Well, when he hands you the Katana, it’s best to just go ham. This is the soundtrack to that imaginary situation. We all miss Hotline Miami, and we all love to be reminded of it. Severed Heads is both a boombox banger and a menacing mixtape, resounding through a brutal beating of bass. Plenty of the vibe within this album is reminiscent of a darker aesthetic that we can recognize and adopt without question. The only question I want to ask is: “Do you like hurting other people?”
9) The Racers
[Setting: Far Far Away, France]
We’re nearing the close of this chapter, but surprises are still left to unhinge and exploit! The Racers released a banger of a single called Final Lap, and more recently Culte de la Machine, and they even have some incredible remixes of a couple of tracks from The Midnight. This artist is going full throttle into the scene with heavy bass, energetic kick drums, and elaborate guitar solos. Truthfully, an unforgettable listening experience. I could continue to describe them further, but I’d rather push you into the deep end and drown out your worries with decadence in musical form.
The beginning of the track grants us passage into the echoes of an electronic cascade of sound alongside blips, and colorful chimes. They grow in rhythm as they tease your audible reflexes to pay attention to what’s coming. An epic showdown of synthesized effects raises your awareness of the eventuality that this is unlike all else we’ve heard thus far. The rapid clap presents the wailing electric guitar, as it takes full control of the body, making you wince with pleasure, and the impression of its riff causes your head to sway in motion. We collect ourselves in the wave of melodic mimicry, awe-inspiring arpeggios, and finally the noise fry to close us off, edging us without fulfillment, so that we may sit with unencumbered satisfaction.
10) Purple Blue
[Setting: ???, Netherlands]
I have to say my favorite part about finding random artists on my own is I can listen to their work unbiased and unaware of anything I’m about to encounter. I flip through what’s available, and my ear deciphers from there. Purple Blue caught my attention with their sound, talent, and core nuances alone being my guide. Despite not being established on Spotify, (which I only used to check album dates for reference), I was delighted to find them at all. When I hear music that I know is good, I put it to the test. If I can repeat it, and resist skipping it, it’s all go from there. Their EP Free is a great example of a well-produced synthwave project that corners the audience with defined influence. It forces us to hear their version of what people love about the genre as a whole. That being said, let’s finish this 3k+ word count article off with a bang.
The warm synth tunes bend and fold with the tides of reminiscent chords. Keep a close ear on the percussion. It’s about to get heavy. Now, notice the peak, claps, and reverb on the strings. These are the ingredients to a properly classified Synthwave track of the modern age. Once the kick-drum begins, it’s all a matter of time before you’re enveloped in Purple Blue’s trance. That electric guitar sneaks up on you early on, and as the song progresses, it holds its end of the bargain as it blares alongside the melody. The harmony of all of these elements contributing and enhancing each other is intoxicating. Every rise and fall has its purpose, and every beat partners up with a clap, creating an abundance of cleverly composed sound.
Final Thoughts & Words of Encouragement:
We’ve made it to the end of the journey! We’ve successfully indulged into the next wave of artists taking over the Synth-Scene!
All that’s left is for you as readers, fans, admirers, and fellow-artists, to support each other, grow together, learn from each other, and follow/subscribe/merch-binge on who caught your attention and which selections fuel your desire for more.
There is so much music to be made and listened to, and enjoyed! This list is just a reflection of what I personally perceive as not just “good music” but as a clear message that, “these artists deserve the spotlight just as much as the Top 10 Synthwave Artists Of All Time do”!
In closing, to the artists mentioned above, consider this a warm welcome into the Synthwave scene. We honor your talent, your personal goals, and your musical growth.
We ask that you keep going, bring more bangers into the world, and claim the spotlight you so deserve!
Your fan and musical scribe,