2019 was arguably the best year for synthwave in its history to date, with the genre enjoying more polished, professional, and exciting creations under its banner than ever before.
Artists on the pioneering edges of the genre brought an infusion of fresh blood to synthwave, and an increasing number of high-profile creators adopted the genre as their own. The vibrancy and inspiration of these innovators helped set the stage for a terrific future for the genre heading into a new decade.
Here is the second half of the countdown, covering numbers 20 through 1. These are the best synthwave songs of 2019!
20. Waveshaper – The Guardian
Waveshaper continues to hold down the traditional sounds of the genre while developing an increasingly unique and recognizable production style. “The Guardian” is one of many great tracks from the artist’s new album, Artifact.
19. DreamReaper – Renegade
DreamReaper’s brand of self-described ‘cyberfunk’ music delivers exactly what it promises, and “Renegade” is a shining example. Combining darksynth sounds with an upbeat, funky songwriting style, DreamReaper broke out of the pack in 2019 with the new Liminality album.
18. Fury Weekend – Oblivion City
Fury Weekend’s new Escape From Neon City album has its share of great vocal tracks, including ones with Scandroid, Megan McDuffee, and PRIZM, though the instrumental “Oblivion City” is remarkable for its bright, catchy synth melodies and the artist’s freewheeling guitar leads.
17. Michael Oakley – Crystal Ships
There are several great songs on Michael Oakley’s new Introspect album, but the timeless songwriting quality and lyrical poetry on “Crystal Ships” helps it stand out as one of the most engaging and memorable synthwave tracks to date.
16. FM-84 – Bend & Break
FM-84 and regular collaborator Ollie Wride scored another hit this year on “Bend & Break,” a gently melodic track with the duo’s signature nostalgic touch. As the only release from FM-84 this year, the song was just enough to keep fans’ hopeful for a second album in the future.
15. Ace Marino, Roniit – Holding My Breath
Ace Marino put a range of songwriting styles on display in 2019 with many excellent results, though the collaboration with Roniit on “Holding My Breath” proved to be one of his best efforts, layering influences from modern EDM and pop with retro synths for a song with rugged replay durability.
14. Magdelana Bay – Oh Hell
In two short years, Magdalena Bay has evolved from a curiosity to one of the most exciting and innovative retro synth artists around. It was an amazing year for the duo that saw the release of the cheeky “Money Lover” and the funky “Killshot,” though their newest single, “Oh Hell,” is a chilled, slightly darkened piece of retro pop gold that becomes more addictive on each spin.
13. Essenger – After Dark
One of the best surprises of the year was Essenger’s increased emphasis on synthwave music. “After Dark” and “Downfall” both offer shadowy, EDM-inspired tracks with a rich production style that feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. The songs provide a clear look into the future of synthwave and promise great things for the artist’s upcoming album.
12. The Midnight – America Online
Chill synthwave has rapidly grown into a substantial branch of the main genre, and The Midnight dove into the style headfirst this year with the ’90s nostalgia of “America Online.” The song embraces a subtle synthscape filled with melancholic melodies and The Midnight’s familiar themes of distance and longing. The result is a low-key gem that taps into the bare essence of online communication.
11. LeBrock – Insterstellar
Retro rockers LeBrock scored a hit near the end of the year with the immense power and beauty of their newest single, “Interstellar.” Accompanied by a full music video, the song felt like a breakthrough for the fan-favorite artists, and it points toward an exceptional future for the group and fans of ’80s-style melodic rock.
10. Signal Void – Gaia
Signal Void’s debut album is filled with darkly beautiful creations, though “Gaia” is a uniquely gorgeous piece with a remarkably understated songwriting approach. Like the rest of This Liminal Reality, the song is capable of pulling listeners in and encouraging them to stay in Signal Void’s dystopian retrofuture for hours on end.
9. Dance With the Dead – Tension
It was a quiet year for Dance with the Dead with just a single song to their name, though they made the most out of it with a gripping new track on “Tension.” It’s a tried-and-true approach to DWTD’s songwriting style, and if the strength of the song is any indication of future releases, then fans still have plenty to look forward to from Dance With The Dead.
8. PYLOT – Alice
PYLOT’s Solai EP was a dark, futuristic affair with remarkable atmosphere and stellar production. Several quality songs grace the EP’s tracklist, though “Alice” stands out with its thrilling compositional shifts and engaging melodies, making it one of 2019’s must-hear tracks.
7. Scandroid, PRIZM – Writing’s On The Wall (PRIZM Remix)
One of the biggest and most welcome surprises of 2019 came on PRIZM’s remix of Scandroid’s “Writing’s On The Wall.” Turning the track into a duet-style piece with Klayton alternating verse sections with PRIZM’s Kris and Danni, the group put an atypical, almost progressive spin on the song with plenty of unexpected songwriting twists. The result is an immensely satisfying piece that contributed to the significant impact PRIZM had on synthwave in 2019.
6. Litany – Single Player Mode
Synthwave has rarely been known for its impressive vocal performances, though Litany almost single-handedly changed that this year on “Single Player Mode.” Artfully equating the single player mode of a video game to post-breakup status, Litany unleashes an unrestrained, emotional singing effort balanced by minimal, understated retro synths. Paired with the quirky pop entries that precede it on the recording, this title track helped Single Player Mode stand out as one of the most surprising synthwave EPs of the year.
5. The Bad Dreamers – Georgetown
The Bad Dreamers’ tribute to The Exorcist is a magical track with remarkable polish and enough careful songwriting twists to make it increasingly satisfying across repeat listens. Subtle horror tones mix effortlessly with modern pop songwriting for one of the most unique and memorable synthwave songs ever released.
4. Jai Wolf – Still Sleeping
Jai Wolf’s hit album The Cure to Loneliness explores a variety of songwriting styles, though “Still Sleeping” is a standout track that lovingly embraces synthwave elements in its production style. The smugly confident lyrics lend a satisfying touch of attitude to an otherwise sweet and magical track.
3. PRIZM – All Night
Easily the biggest earworm of the year and perhaps the most unapologetically pop-oriented effort to hit synthwave music to date, “All Night” was an explosive piece that marked the arrival of PRIZM in 2019. The duo has since released numerous great songs, including original pieces like “We Were Young” and “Can’t Go Back” as well as their beautiful cover song medley on “Midnight FM,” though “All Night” provided the first intro to the group for many listeners and is an iconic creation at the turn of a new decade for synthwave.
2. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
Synthwave has been creeping into increasingly conspicuous parts of pop culture for years, though it culminated this year in the release of The Weeknd’s all-out synthwave anthem, “Blinding Lights.” The song aligns perfectly with the genre’s current evolution, intersecting with the space where traditional artists have been heading for years. “Blinding Lights” isn’t just a shallow imitation either, it’s a remarkably hooky track with impeccable production quality that easily stands among the best synthwave songs released all year.
1. Wayfloe, Jessie Frye – Fractions
Wayfloe’s gliding synth tones contrast with crisp bass beats to carry a faultless singing performance from Jessie Frye on “Fractions.” From Wayfloe’s debut Neon West album, this under-the-radar gem became a sleeper hit within the genre, and the understated magic of the collaboration makes it worth putting on repeat and leaving it. The track simply doesn’t wear out its massive appeal, making it the best synthwave song of 2019.
Missed the first half of the countdown? Check it out right here!
Enjoy the top synthwave songs of 2019 in Iron Skullet’s Synthwave / Retro Electro playlist!