It’s not an exaggeration to say The Midnight have revolutionized the synthwave genre and helped to redefine its second generation of creators, pulling in a large group of new fans in the process. Their music is at the forefront of a remarkable shift away from the original sounds of outrun (old school synthwave) and into a dreamy, vocal-driven approach that borrows heavy influences from contemporary EDM and other forms of popular music. The result is a fresh sound with widespread appeal.
With their popularity increasing day after day and their fans eagerly searching for more artists like The Midnight, there’s never been a better time to put together a list of recommendations. All of these creators are forging their own unique sounds within a similar stylistic spectrum, and if you’re looking for music like The Midnight, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy these 11 innovative synthwave artists.
Although PRIZM just released their first songs earlier this year, the Dallas-based duo has already made their mark on the genre with impeccable vocal performances and engaging songwriting backed by top-flight production. The pair cite The Midnight as a key inspiration for their own tracks, and synthwave fans who love polished, vocal-driven creations with a dreamy side will find plenty to enjoy from this up-and-coming act.
A pioneer since the dawn of synthwave’s formal releases and a key figure in the incorporation of modern EDM and pop vocals into the genre, Futurecop! continues to explore new ideas on each release. The artist’s latest album, Voltrana, delivers a wealth of content ranging from upbeat pop pieces to dreamy cinematic tracks with several notable guest vocalists on board, making it a must-hear for fans of synthwave’s lighter side. The collaborations with Parallels on songs like “Leslie Chung” are particularly worthwhile.
Relentlessly catchy melodies and an ensemble cast of guest vocalists mark Moonrunner83 as a standout pop synthwave artist. The producer’s tracks are far from fluff, however, as Moonrunner83 creates beautifully nostalgic soundscapes laced with poetic lyrics from frequent collaborator Megan McDuffee. Moonrunner83’s three releases to date contain many of the most rewarding vocal tracks in the genre to date and signal even greater things to come.
Shifting from their EDM roots into a retro synth style with more polish and professional production than a hundred other synthwave artists combined, Wayfloe offers a lush, hybrid style of music with broad appeal. Their collab with Jessie Frye on “Fractions” is one of the most addictive songs released all year, while “Scarlet Speedster” and “Neon West” further reveal the duo’s ability to handle a deep, cinematic songwriting style with finesse.
One of synthwave’s first prominent vocalists, NINA has continued to develop her sound and hone her songwriting skills across a series of memorable and beloved tracks. “Purple Sun” and “Beyond Memory” from the 2018 Sleepwalking album are timeless synthwave creations, while “The Calm Before the Storm” single from last year is arguably her strongest track to date. Add the artist’s live shows to the mix and it’s safe to say NINA is one of the most complete artists in synthwave.
Enjoy all 11 of these featured artists along with The Midnight in Iron Skullet’s Synthwave / Retro Electro playlist.
Songwriting is an art form, a fact that is too frequently forgotten behind synthwave creators’ desire to play it safe with simple and accessible outrun tracks. Michael Oakley takes the road less traveled and scours the past to pull authentic influences from a diverse range of music, carefully fitting them together into his own unique form of retro synth music. The artist’s Introspect album is a short but sweet trip across a remarkable range of audio ideas, and songs like “Control” are “Crystal Ships” are likely to sound just as great decades from now as they do today.
A pioneer of synthwave’s dreamy subgenre, Timecop1983 has steadily shifted from a downtempo outrun sound on early releases to a more polished and immersive dreamwave style with plenty of pop-flavored vocal contributions. Timecop1983’s collaboration with The Midnight on last year’s “Static” could fit easily in either artist’s catalogue, and the two acts share a significant overlap in their fanbase. This one may be obvious, but fans of The Midnight should have Timecop1983 in their regular listening rotation.
The Bad Dreamers
With a background as a professional songwriter and producer working with artists including Pink and John Legend, the artist behind The Bad Dreamers project is one of the most remarkable creators to come along in synthwave’s history. The producer weaves layers of conceptual interest and stunning pieces of lyrical poetry into each one of his retro pop creations for songs that are nothing short of audio art, and his new The Exorcist-themed track “Georgetown” is just the latest example of the exquisite care The Bad Dreamers puts into every one of his songs.
Few artists in any part of synthwave have created songs that are as popular and cherished by fans as those from FM-84. Three years after the release of the now-iconic Atlas album, “Running in the Night” remains one of most enduring songs in the genre, while the latest effort with bandmate Ollie Wride, “Bend and Break,” signals the artists’ willingness to continue evolving and pushing into new creative territory. There’s no question that FM-84 is a must-hear artist for fans of dreamy, vocal-driven synthwave sounds.
Since their debut full-length album in 2015, Gunship has consistently helped set a new standard for polished vocal tracks in synthwave music while introducing a variety of outside influences into the mix. Their latest album, Dark All Day, occasionally explores darker creative territory with cyberpunk themes, though the group hasn’t lost their ability to craft emotionally complex ballads with a dreamy, retro synth foundation.
Aside from The Midnight themselves, few artists represent synthwave’s dreamwave subgenre as well as Kalax, whose gorgeous melodies and cinematic audioscapes are wrapped up in consistently stellar production. A long-time contributor to the synthwave genre, Kalax has steadily shifted his sound from an old school style on early releases to a more polished and refined approach with a selection of deeply enjoyable vocal tracks on the latest full-length album, III. No fan of The Midnight should miss out on the retro synth gems in Kalax’s discography.
Special thanks to the following artists for their support on this blog. Click their names to learn more about their music.