Synthwave has always been a bit of a niche-market genre with a devoted fanbase. But unlike most other genres of its size, the feelings that synthwave conjures are visceral.
Because synthwave thrives on nostalgia, a powerful emotion that all humans react strongly to. So whether it's longing for childhood, music on MTV, or simply just watching a wholesome movie that isn't a part of a franchised-money-grab universe, synthwave has what you're looking for.
Nobody knows that better than LA-based duo The Midnight, who has been at the forefront of the synthwave movement since its earliest inception and has helped shape the genre into what we know today.
So to celebrate the release of their latest album Heroes, we brought the boys on to share the synthwave music they believe are masterclasses in the genre and inspired them to the height in which The Midnight now resides.
Carpenter Brut – Le Perve
This track is on every running mix I have. There’s something so elemental and powerful about this track.
It’s full of restrained force ready to blow the roof off and perfect for the last half mile of a 5k.
Lazerhawk – Overdrive
This was one of the first synthwave records I listened to and one I come back to often. It, like Carpenter Brute, has the classic arp bass and power, but this one puts me in Danger Zone territory.
A definitive blueprint for me of the sound of pre-Drive synthwave.
Futurecop – Inner Universe
Futurecop! Was the first synthwave artist I absolutely consumed everything he’d done. This record in particular captures the wonder and sense of expansiveness that I was missing in a lot of the darker synth wave artists.
There is a sense of play and curiosity. This is the soundtrack to an expanding universe.
El Tigr3 – Huntress
This track finds its way onto most DJ sets I put together. It is brooding and driving and all the things you want out of this kind of track, but that snare makes you want to bounce. Synthwave in its current state came out of French Touch and Breakbeat and Bloghouse.
It has more dancing roots in its DNA than people give it credit for.
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FM Attack – A Million Miles Away
A huge pillar of this scene early on and certainly a major inspiration for The Midnight. FM Attack has successfully gone deeper and wider than probably anyone else in the genre.
Else – Paris
What is synthwave?
I don’t have my slide rule or my identification chart handy, but Else is making seriously listenable, modern synth classics with their ambient layers, their blending of modern production elements, and evolution that veers towards lofi and house in pleasing ways.
They have the basics covered. Their productions are clean and focused, but it’s on the margins, where the lines start to blur Else really excites me like no one else on the scene right now.
Droid Bishop/The Midnight – Deep Blue
Droid Bishop is the Steely Dan of Synthwave, and if you don’t think of that as very high praise then you can go pound sand. I listen to Droid probably more than any other synthwave-adjacent artist right now.
His moves are even tastier than they are unexpected. James opened a show for us last year in San Diego and meeting him was such a treat. I hope we can all get in the studio together at some point.
Kavinsky/Cautious Clay/Oliver – Renegade
Credit where credit is due. Kavinsky broke the door open a decade ago for synthwave. His new release is fantastic and combined with another production team (Oliver), this track is flirting with synthwave perfection, and it’s danceable.
I used to share studio space with Oliver in LA and have always loved their serious production chops infused with the fun of a party.
Betamaxx – Winter Games
This record changed my mind about what synth wave was. Sarajevo is such a razor-sharp musical commentary on a historical event.
If there is a record that belongs in the hall of fame of this genre, it’s this one. I can’t speak highly enough of it. It’s a masterpiece.
Timecop1983 – New Horizons
No one does classic, dreamy Synthwave like Timecop1983!