The 100 best synthpop songs of 2023: 100 to 76

Counting down my favorite songs of the year.

Welcome to my annual countdown of the year’s best tunes in synthpop, futurepop, darkwave, and the like. This is the fifth year in a row I’ve compiled this list, but that’s not the only milestone I’m celebrating in 2023.

In March, I completed a long overdue revamp of my website to make it more of a destination. And just last month, I passed 5,000 followers on Facebook, which is where I do most of my promotion. If you’d like to follow along on Facebook, you can find me here.

Each year when I look back at the music I enjoyed most, I try to spot trends that define the year’s mood. It seems like the prevailing mood this year is cynicism, as a lot of the artists I love lament the sorry state of things. Our inaction on climate change, our inability to treat each other right, and a general feeling that things aren’t ever going to get better are topics that frequently surfaced in synthpop music. The once hopeful promise of a post-COVID world seems quickly dashed.

You’ll see that cynicism appear in much of the music below. For the fifth year in a row, I’m excited to present my 100 favorite songs of the year. As always, I only include each artist once on the list in order to share the love.

The complete list:

100 Christopher Anton – “Heartbeat One”

American singer Christopher Anton performed vocals for the synthpop band Information Society while original vocalist Kurt Harland was pursuing other obligations. I’m not that familiar with his solo material, but “Heartbeat One” is a delightful confection of media samples, ecstatic beats, and memorable hooks. Not that far from the InfoSoc formula.

99 Neon Space Men – “Twisted Mind”

German trio Neon Space Men make spirited, cheerful synthpop in the style of ’80s classics. They’ve only released a handful of songs so far, and they’re working on their debut album for a 2024 release. “Twisted Mind,” the best of the bunch, showcases the band’s gift for vocal interplay. And in this genre, you can never go wrong with a Blade Runner sample.

98 Rotersand – “Forgotten Daydreams”

Beloved German band Rotersand released their last album, 2020’s How Do You Feel Today, just as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered nightclubs. They’ve since dropped a smattering of singles that foreshadow a dark and heavy club sound for their next release. “Forgotten Daydreams” is drenched in trance beats and electronic pulses.

97 Wiegand – “Pied Pipers”

German musician Helge Wiegand is deeply entrenched in the dark synthpop scene as a member of T.O.Y. and an occasional keyboardist for Diorama. As his solo project Wiegand, he makes contemplative, engaging synthpop. “Pied Pipers,” the best track from his sophomore album Arrived, makes a startling transition near the 4-minute mark as the song takes on an angrier tone.

96 Summore – “Magic Pill”

American duo Summore make dark and dreamy synthpop with lovely, sorrowful vocals from artist Julie Rose. On “Magic Pill,” the mesmerizing first single from their 2023 album New Pain, she practically levitates as she cries out, “I need a magic pill… something is wrong though.”

95 Mind Machine – “Frozen Souls”

The success of California’s BlakLight is drawing renewed attention to their many side-projects and previous bands, including vocalist Brian Belknap’s long-time work with Mind Machine. Brian and his Mind Machine partner Brian Olsen are recording a new album that should include the lovely, spirited single “Frozen Souls.”

94 The Distant Minds – “Simple Life ’83”

British band The Distant Minds remains an incredibly underrated act that regularly delivers engaging melodies and lush vocals. If you love synthpop, you probably love the ’80s. “Simple Life ’83” offers nostalgic lyrics and infectious synth riffs about good times gone by.

93 CARV.R feat. Mari Kattman – “Deflect”

Rhode Island artist CARV.R frequently employs female voices to accompany his bass-heavy style of dark synthpop. On the pulsating “Deflect,” he’s joined by Mari Kattman, a commanding artist of her own right. Her soaring vocals give “Deflect” a haunting yet anthemic feel.

92 Fractal Age – “Enemy”

I’ve been following German band Fractal Age since the very beginning—they released their debut single, “Red,” back in 2019. They approach music with the sinister beats and aggressive tone of early futurepop. “Enemy” comes from their third album, Faded Blossom.

91 Body of Light – “This Conversation”

For the follow-up to their 2019 album, Time to Kill, Arizona duo Body of Light go for a broader, poppier sound—a trend we’ve witnessed among contemporaries like Korine and Wingtips. My tastes tend to run toward the darker side of their previous work, but I am still charmed by the playful bleeps and immediate chorus of “This Conversation.”

90 Scheuber – “Lotus”

Former Project Pitchfork keyboardist Dirk Scheuber has been far more prolific than the celebrated band he once cofounded. As Scheuber, he’s released three full-length albums since Pitchfork’s latest, 2018’s Fragments. The bombastic and hypnotic “Lotus” is the standout track from his 2023 album, Autarcique.

89 CØLDSTAR – “I Won’t Follow You”

There’s a long list of synthpop bands that embrace science-fiction themes. New Swiss project CØLDSTAR joins that list with songs and visuals that cover topics like space exploration. “I Won’t Follow You,” from the band’s Coming Home EP, offers captivating lyrics and a dark, foreboding voice that sounds like it comes from deep space.

88 Absurd Minds – “Gravitas”

The long-running German project Absurd Minds returned in 2023 with their eighth studio album. You’ll certainly recognize the unmistakeable voice of Stefan Großmann, but they make this banger feel fresh and exciting by electrifying the hell out of the word “gravitaaaas.”

87 Alien Skin – “Some of Us Are Like This”

Australian artist Alien Skin, who is former Real Life keyboardist George Pappas (of “Send Me an Angel” fame), is on a tear. In 2023, he’s released so much material—about a dozen singles, three or four EPs, an album. It can be tough to keep up. Of everything I’ve heard, my favorite is a track from his Negative Plus album called “Some of Us Are Like This,” which features a sinister beat and lyrics that celebrate those of us who just don’t do normal.

86 Daniel Hall – “Stone Cold”

Another prolific Australian musician, Daniel Hall, released a new album in 2023 called Navigate that finds him navigating the emotions of love. I like Daniel at his darkest, and the album’s stand-out track for me is “Stone Cold” for its morbidly catchy chorus of “You’re a stone cold killer… of love.”

85 X Marks the Pedwalk – “Who Is Right”

German legends X Marks the Pedwalk remain committed to their late-stage output of gorgeous melodies and polished production. I’m still absorbing their just released twelfth album, Superstition, but so far “Who Is Right” stands out for its deep, driving beat and intricate electronics.

84 Lifelong Corporation – “The Muse”

Spanish act Lifelong Corporation released a mammoth set of well-crafted synthpop called The World of Tomorrow. Synth keys reverb all over album highlight “The Muse,” which delivers the sort of energetic, anthemic sound I can’t get enough of.

83 The Grey Disorder feat. Magnus Dahlberg – “Sleepwalking”

The unmistakeable voice of MORE’s Magnus Dahlberg joins Canadian band The Grey Disorder for their only 2023 release, “Sleepwalking.” Magnus delivers lovely, distinctive vocals, while musician Lance Pilon produces a beautiful piano melody. Around the 3-minute mark, a sparkling synth riffs gives the song added dimension.

82 e:lect – “It Doesn’t Matter”

Swedish duo e:lect is another hardworking and talented synthpop act that demands more attention—it’s no wonder they’ve joined the influential Danish label Town And Towers Records. “It Doesn’t Matter” showcases the band’s command of sharp songwriting and unforgettable hooks we’ve heard in past tracks like “No Solution” and “State of Me.”

81 State of the Union – “Purgatory”

Los Angeles-based futurepop artist State of the Union has an outstanding catalog that includes such hits as “Radioman,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Behind That Dress.” They’ve never been afraid to tackle difficult topics, and their 2023 single “Purgatory” explores feelings of emptiness that can lead to suicide.

80 LEATHERS – “Fascination”

ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett continues to build momentum for her debut album as the sensual synthpop project LEATHERS. On her sophisticated and dreamy 2023 single “Fascination,” she combines sparkling synths and elegant vocals—especially that seductive spoken word bit of “Elevate… penetrate… fascinate.”

79 BLACKBOOK – “You Are Strange”

BLACKBOOK has perfected a winning formula of spirited synth riffs and unforgettable hooks. They’re sticking with it. Of the five songs they released in 2023, “You Are Strange” stands out for its cunning lyrics: “You’re strange. So strange. I hope you never change.”

78 – “Poison Fruits (2023 remake)”

I’m breaking an unwritten rule here: I generally don’t include covers and remakes in my countdowns because I’m looking for the best original songs. But few people (including me) heard emerging artist’s debut song, “Poison Fruits,” when it arrived in 2021. They’ve reworked the song with a more polished sound, and that absolutely mesmerizing chorus—”Give me time to fail, give me time to prevail”—warrants more listens.

77 Piston Damp – “I’m Losing You (A New Tale)”

Danish/Norwegian newcomers Piston Damp have released a handful of singles since their debut album, Making the World Great Again. The latest is a colorful confection called “I’m Losing You (A New Tale)” that opens with one of the most buoyant synth riffs of the year, then follows with classic synthpop melodies and one catchy-as-hell chorus.

76 Pet Shop Boys – “The Lost Room”

Pet Shop Boys’ last album Hotspot was mostly a misfire for me. But they’ve since released a five-song EP called Lost that somewhat redeems the synthpop legends. Opening track “The Lost Room” revels in the duo’s elegant songcraft with a touching story about childhood trauma.

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