This decade has been huge for synthwave. What was mostly a MySpace- and mp3 blog-centered genre from the mid- to late-2000s expanded greatly on the wave of several distinct cultural phenomena.
Consider all of the signal boosts that synthwave artists received from such associations: films like Drive (2011), The Guest (2013), and Kung Fury (2015); TV shows such as Eastbound & Down (2009-2013), Red Oaks (2015-2017), and Stranger Things (2016-present); and video games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013) and Hotline Miami (2012). All of which served to attract more musicians and more fans to what had been a primarily underground scene.
The growth of the genre in both size and scope is a markedly pronounced force. Pioneers have expanded on their sound or left the genre completely. Talented, new artists have created compelling work that has helped define and redefine synthwave. Others have sought to take the genre into new and interesting places with sometimes mixed results — with any genre, there can be growing pains.
On that note, here is a list of 60 of my favorite synthwave albums and EPs from the 2010s. (I tried to keep it at the nice round number of 50, but couldn’t.) I’m listing them in alphabetical order, because I can’t begin to calculate a rank for any given release. Hell, I’m not even declaring that these are the “Top” or “Best” releases. These are, merely, the ones that have resonated the most with me and the ones I recommend with greatest ferocity. (I suppose there’s a ranking of some sort here, then!)
Also, I learned from the “Favorite 100 Albums and EPs” post that I can’t do embeds or images for each track — too much to process for the machines! So my apologies there. Anyway, here we go.
All of Them Witches — The Coven (2016)
Dynatron — Escape Velocity (2012)
Jordan F — Slipstream (2014)
Lazerhawk — Redline (2010)
Le Cassette — Left to Our Own Devices (2014)
Let Em Riot — The Futurist (2018)
Lost Years — Black Waves (2012)
Miami Nights 1984 — Turbulence (2012)
Muscle — The Pump (2014)
New Arcades — We Had It All For Just One Moment (2016)
Powder Slut — Kaleidoscope (2016)
Sebastian Gampl — Winner (2015)
Sferro — Ornaments (2015)
Tesla Boy — The Universe Made of Darkness (2013)
Thomas Barrandon — Escape from Earth (2011)
VHS Dreams — Trans AM (2015)
Vincenzo Salvia — Auto Radio (2013)
A note: These are studio albums and EPs — soundtracks and scores that could fall under the synthwave umbrella could be on my next list. Another note: There’s a chance I missed an obvious inclusion. It happens.
And don’t miss some of your favorite artists’ picks for best of 2019.