Welcome to the first countdown of 2023. 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. 12 Illusions – “Revalue the Time”
German band 12 Illusions may have just launched last year, but they’re off to impressive start. “Revalue the Time” combines densely layered electronics, classic synthpop song structure, and a memorable hook. Can’t wait to hear more.
9. Torul – “Now I Die Inside”
Slovenian synthpop band Torul takes a minimalist approach on their first new song in almost two years. A gradually jangling bleep allows for the song’s unique structure and delicate vocals, sung by Torulsson himself, to really shine.
8. Catherine Moan x Primer – “Pavement 2”
“Pavement 2,” the second collaboration from songwriters Catherine Moan and Primer, kicks off with an immersive dreampop vibe, then around the 1:15 mark, transforms into something else entirely. A playful tenor joins the mix that makes the song feel fresh and innovative.
7. Rotersand – “Higher Ground”
Exactly two years to the day since releasing their last single, beloved German act Rotersand dropped another New Years Day delight. “Higher Ground” incorporates some of the trancey electronics of “Grey,” but adds knob-twisting drama that ups the song’s anxiety.
6. Erotic Elk – “Hours”
Swedish synthpop band Erotic Elk follows previous singles “The Living Pain” and “Watching You” with another gorgeous tune that demonstrates the band’s ability to convey deep emotional resonance. Let’s hope “Hours” is the precursor to a long overdue full-length from these guys.
5. Everything But the Girl – “Nothing Left to Lose”
The first new music from Everything But the Girl in 24 years is not explicitly synthpop, yet it’s hard to ignore one of the most exciting things happening in music this year. “Nothing Left to Lose” sounds rhythmic and modern, and darkwave fans will find plenty to love, from Tracey Thorn’s thick voice to its gloomy subject matter, especially the track’s final couplet: “Kiss me while the world decays, kiss me while the music plays.”
4. ULTRA SUNN – “Set Yourself on Fire”
Belgian duo ULTRA SUNN combine brutal EBM beats and languid vocals into an extremely danceable sound. Their latest song and the second single from a forthcoming EP has a monster hook—”Set yourself on fire!”—that makes it the project’s catchiest track to date.
3. Nuovo Testamento – “Heat”
Hot on the heels of last year’s compulsive “Heartbeat,” Nuovo Testamento fires off another single from their forthcoming sophomore album, which already feels like it’s in the running for album of the year. “Heat” combines a propulsive beat with songwriter Chelsey Crowley’s gift for creating immediacy by repeating words like “fire” and “desire.”
2. Deus Ex Lumina – “Fight Back!”
It’s only January, but Deus Ex Lumina has already delivered the empowerment anthem of the year. “Fight Back” is a call to underground subcultures, the demented and downtrodden, to stand up to oppression. It’s best line: “You’re not just another alien to be sacrificed.”
1. Beborn Beton – “Dancer in the Dark”
Beloved German band Beborn Beton returns from an eight-year hiatus with a song about dancing while the world wears away. Its seductive beat and dynamic changes make it one of the best tracks in an already impressive catalog.