February was a big, big month for music. There were so many new releases from established artists and newcomers alike, it was at times tough to keep up. I listened to a lot of music and somehow managed to narrow it all down to a top 10—with some pretty heavy hitters—but there are plenty of great songs I’m not able to include below.
Here are my favorite synthpop, futurepop, and darkwave songs of the month. If you want to follow my music discovery this year, subscribe to my 2023 playlist on Spotify. New songs are added every Friday. Sort by Date Added to see the new tracks appear at the top of the playlist.
10. Torul – “The Only Way”
Slovenian synthpop band Torul has released a number of singles from their latest album, End Less Dreams, but I’m surprised “The Only Way” is not one of them. It’s an album highlight. Band leader Torulsson cranks up the digital gloom with a number of dynamic elements that include female backing vocals, atmospheric synths, and a creepy digitized voice.
9. White Noise TV – “Equalizer”
The Swiss-German trio White Noise TV has been on my radar since I first heard their vibrant 2021 single “Generator.” If new single “Equalizer” is any indication of what’s to come this year, I need to start paying closer attention. “Equalizer” is the sort of melancholic synthpop I devour: contemplative lyrics, gorgeous melodies, and dark electronic flourishes.
8. Promenade Cinema – “To Synchronise No More”
Promenade Cinema never fails to surprise me with the attention to detail in their songcraft. In “To Synchonise No More,” the third track from their Dark Designs EP, Emma Barson sings of “tracks in the driveway” and “stains from your coffee” as the duo’s swirling synths conjure a woeful, sullen atmosphere. They remain the best storytellers in the scene.
7. Teledeath – “Adore”
A friend whose musical tastes I trust introduced me to New York-based artist Teledeath, and woof, what a find. The way he combines thumping techno beats with synthpop melodies is exquisite. I believe “Adore” is only his third track available, but I want a lot more of this, please.
6. Dagon – “Room of Ice”
Dagon is a wildly underrated Greek musician whose voice you may recognize at the singer of Dark-o-matic. His outstanding solo record, Goran Sharok, showcases the artist’s super songcraft. “Room of Ice” is one of the standouts for its clever wordplay: “You did nothing wrong. Except for everything.”
5. Panic Lift – “Smash the Controls”
New Jersey’s Panic Lift embraces an industrial pop sound on “Smash the Controls,” one of two tracks released this month (its electro-industrial companion, “The Owl and the Effigy,” goes for the jugular). The song’s dynamic vocals move effortlessly from melodic to aggressive, which establishes a compelling dichotomy. Some of the verses even bare a strong resemblance to Daniel Graves’ Necessary Response project, and that’s never a bad thing in my book.
4. Beborn Beton – “I Watch My Life on TV”
It’s hard to believe Beborn Beton’s forthcoming album Darkness Falls Again could top A Worthy Compensation, but its first two singles suggest that may just be the case. “I Watch My Life on TV,” the follow-up to last month’s seductive single “Dancer in the Dark,” is another knockout bop with memorable lyrics (“We used to be magic”) and spirited synth riffs.
3. Diary of Dreams – “The Fatalist”
Diary of Dreams prove themselves masters of darkwave drama on their profound new album, Melancholin. It’s impossible to pick a highlight, especially when the pre-release singles are as intense as “Viva la Bestia.” I am personally drawn to deep album cut, “The Fatalist,” which upends the album’s reliance on guitars for jittery electronics and majestic lyrics.
2. VNV Nation – “Before the Rain”
“Before the Rain,” the first taste of VNV Nation’s eleventh studio album, is a sturdy, contemplative rhapsody. Maestro Ronan Harris delivers the type of poetic lyrics we’ve come to expect from him: “We built a universe so we held the cosmos in our hands.” You might think it’s about the origin of the universe, but really it’s a song about the power of love.
1. Depeche Mode – “Ghosts Again”
Once the hype wore down, I sat with “Ghosts Again” to see if it holds up. I stand by my initial conviction—”Ghosts Again” is Depeche Mode’s best song in years. It’s subtle, sentimental, and really quite beautiful. Memento Mori’s first single does exactly what it’s supposed to—amp up my anticipation for the album. I haven’t felt this excited for a Depeche Mode release since Sounds of the Universe.