A Quick Tale of Synthesis: FM Attack, Lightfrequency, Computronic, Aly & AJ

Some pretty cool synthy stuff has been popping up recently, most notably the return of retrosynth/dreamwave pioneer FM Attack. Here are some songs or albums that have caught my attention.

FM Attack – “Images of You”

The Canadian-born, Mexico-based Shawn Ward is back with a single that sounds like early 80s new wave/synth-pop acts like Flock of Seagulls with some elements of The Cure and The Human League. It’s the first cut off Stellar, which will be released on Sept. 1. The whole album is a brilliant new wave/80s synth-pop revival of-sorts, created for the most part with authentic, analogue equipment, and this song offers a good window into it.

Stay tuned for an interview with Ward.

Lightfrequency – Skyline Splitter

This is a synthesizer-driven EP that’s replete with subtle brilliance. Like HOME, Lightfrequency crafts tight, catchy, and rhythmic compositions that flow as if covered in butter. Using his Roland Juno 60 to full effect, Mike Beaton, the Portland, Oregon-based man behind the project, conjures up a collection of songs I’ve found myself listening to on almost a daily basis. I highly recommend this release.

Computronic – Even the Score

The Ottawa, Canada-based musician is a newcomer to 80s retroism — or at least new to releasing music laced with totems of that era. I typically have found the newer generation of synthwavers to be underwhelming — at least in part because they seem to be trying to create their rough copy of synthwave pioneers like Miami Nights 1984 or Perturbator.

But Computronic goes beyond four-bar, instrumental repetitions, crafting a 10-song concept album centered on the tale of the trials and tribulations of an aspirational soul named Rick Donald. Highlight is “Running the Storm,” featuring Vandal Moon on vocals. It’s like Echo and the Bunnymen with more synthesis.

Aly & AJ – “Take Me”

Take it back with duo Aly & AJ. At its core, this upbeat number is modern synth-pop, but laced throughout are throwbacks to more Hughesian times.

You can catch AJ on ABC sitcom The Goldbergs. Aly has had roles in such disparate manifestations as Two and a Half Men, the MacGyver remake, and CSI: NY.