Here are my favorite synthpop, futurepop, and darkwave songs of October 2023. 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 new tracks appear at the top of the playlist.
10. Absurd Minds – “Gravitas”
The long-running German project Absurd Minds returns with their first new song since their 2020 album Sapta. “Gravitas” is a powerhouse single that serves as the title track of their forthcoming album. The marbled voice of Stefan Großmann is instantly recognizable, but what really intensifies this track is the way they’ve electrified the word “gravitaaaas” into a live wire.
9. VH x RR – “Adrenochrome”
VH x RR are getting topical. The synthpop duo’s latest single is inspired by the rise of artificial intelligence and draws some storytelling from The Terminator films. Lines like “Machines will rise again under falling skies” sound like they belong in a Front Line Assembly song, yet Von Hertzog and Rob Row imbue “Adrenochrome” with a rich, warm palette nothing like that band’s electro-industrial sound. It makes for one of the duo’s best tracks.
8. IIOIOIOII – “Dance Again”
Just a few weeks ago, North Carolina’s IIOIOIOO released their new album, Dreaming, which contains the singles “Frozen Sea,” “Carousel,” and “Legacy.” I’m a sucker for songs about the power of dancing, so I am most drawn to the album’s closing cut, “Dance Again.” The band builds tension with lush, layered sounds and stretches out lyrics like “I’ll hold my breath until we can dance again” into soothing impressions.
7. j:dead – “Harbour”
English project j:dead is gearing up to release an EP called Roots that should be out in December. Its second single follows the previously released track, “Surrendering,” and forgoes j:dead’s screamier vocals to showcase his bold, powerful voice. “Harbour” contemplates the experience of living with personal trauma by employing lines like “I never will be lonely, ‘cuz there’s someone else inside.”
6. Ashbury Heights – “Ghosts Electric”
Continuing their long-gestating series of Ghost House Sessions tracks, Ashbury Heights have unveiled the most unexpected song in their entire catalog. “Ghosts Electric” employs extreme vocal effects that sound a lot like the Chipmunks gone goth. I believe that’s Yaz singing all the vocals, and her lovely, lilting voice is grafted onto a buoyant electropop melody. Unexpected, yes, but also very enticing.
5. Priest – “Burning Love”
I’m honestly shocked that Priest had time to record a new song given their busy touring schedule. It turns out “Burning Love” is not just a new song but the first single from a forthcoming album called Dark Pulse. The song amps up the techno energy with explosive beats and wild noise effects. Can’t wait to hear what this new album has in store.
4. Beyond Border – “Radiant”
German project Beyond Border make uplifting synth anthems out of thick beats and beautiful melodies. So it seems only natural that their latest single “Radiant” pays homage to the warmth of the sun. “Radiant” is the first taste of Beyond Border’s next album, Gathering, which should be one of the most promising releases of 2024.
3. Promenade Cinema – “Alone at Parties”
Last Halloween, Promenade Cinema gave us a haunting track called “Spellbound.” Continuing the tradition, the English duo returns this year with another Halloween release that cranks up the tempo while retaining the band’s epic gloom. “Alone at Parties” may not cover traditional spooky fare (though the well-crafted video features plenty of Halloween imagery), but it easily serves as an anthem for introverts.
2. Bedless Bones – “Dead Woman”
This ethereal showpiece from Estonian project Bedless Bones is nothing short of majestic. Kadri Sammel’s electronics are gorgeous, her vocals mysterious and sublime. “Dead Woman,” the first single from Bedless Bones’ forthcoming album, is one of those incredible songs with the power to make you a lifelong fan.
1. unitcode:machine – “Blind”
You really can’t go wrong with any track from unitcode:machine’s monumental new album, Critical Fault. Pre-release singles “Cold” and “Undone” hinted at uncompromising songwriting that delves into Eric Kristoffer’s emotional catharsis. As someone who constantly struggles with self-doubt and self-sabotage, I find the lyrics of “Blind” particularly poignant: “The truth was right in front of me. I am my own worst enemy. This hopeless war I fight. The future’s built on lies.”