The 100 best synthpop songs of 2023: 75 to 51

The countdown continues of 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:

75 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Bauhaus Staircase”

The title track of OMD’s fourteenth album pulls no punches: “I’m gonna kick down fascist art.” The UK legends look back to Weimar era Germany yet tackle thoroughly modern topics while delivering jubilant, classic synthpop blips and beats.

74 Morphose feat. Sven Friedrich – “All Comes Back to You”

In 2021, veteran musician Christoph Schauer of the band CYTO kicked off a new project called Morphose. He frequently employs third-party singers to accompany his productions—Neuroticfish’s Sascha Klein joined him for last year’s entry on this list, “Surrender.” This year’s “All Comes Back to You” features the familiar voice of Solar Fake’s Sven Friedrich.

73 Korine – “Lost in the Dark”

In 2020, Philadelphia duo Korine released an incredible collection of darkly tinted synthpop gems called The Night We Raise. For the follow-up, they’ve adopted a brighter, more hopeful palette. The new album’s most memorable track, “Lost in the Dark,” does a lovely job bridging the gap between those two distinctive releases.

72 Platronic – “Memories”

If you’ve ever wondered what a VNV Nation song would sound like with female vocals, this might be it. The Finnish-German electronic music duo Platronic employs the soaring melodies of peak futurepop but tops them with musician/vocalist Kay Burden’s sentimental lyrics about a recent breakup.

71 Jennifer Touch – “Sacred Type”

Berlin artist Jennifer Touch probably feels like an outlier on this list. She blends dark pop melodies with unsettling coldwave vibes for a unique sound unlike the fiery danceclub tracks I typically devour. It’s hard not to be charmed by the enticing vocals of “Sacred Type” from her 2023 album, Midnight Proposals.

70 Circuit Preacher – “Take Control”

American act Circuit Preacher is among many exciting new arrivals in 2023. The good reverend has released a handful of singles this year, but the best of them is “Take Control,” which finds a nice balance between melodic synthpop and abrasive electro—both delivered with his silky smooth voice.

69 Ironic Sweden – “Let Me Go”

Now this is one of the friskiest synthlines I’ve ever heard. Ironic Sweden has been creating music since at least 2017, but in November the project added two new vocalists and released a full-length album called, appropriately enough, Evolution. “Let Me Go” is the album’s standout track. Try not bopping your head to this.

68 Darkness on Demand – “White Clouds”

The former German band Dance or Die is now Darkness on Demand. And they don’t do subtle. “White Clouds,” a track from their Digital Outcast album, kicks off with a rollicking beat, adds stabbing laser sounds, then tops it all off with a dark, baritone voice. This is electronic bombast.

67 Violet Silhouette – “Hierda Demoniaca”

There’s so much to love about this darkwave gem from Florida’s Violet Silhouette. The sputtering percussion sound that putters beneath the beat. The soaring guitar that rises out of the fog. The lovely vocal shifts that at times resemble TR/ST’s Robert Alfons. It all combines beautifully to form a wonderful song that’s equal parts synthpop and shoegaze.

66 j:dead – “Harbour”

English project j:dead is a gifted vocalist capable of seamlessly transitioning from screaming industrial wails to traditional melody. I gravitate toward his more melodic moments like last year’s “Hold Tight.” On this year’s “Harbour,” he continues to demonstrate a bold, powerful voice while examining personal trauma. Lyrics don’t get more intriguing than this: “I never will be lonely. ‘Cuz there’s somewhere else inside.”

65 Violentene – “Thin Lines”

Canadian duo Violentene combine lush, reverbing synth lines and dreamy vocals that give their sound a dreampop quality. There’s an effervescent beauty and charm to their single, “Thin Lines,” which comes from this year’s Human Drama EP.

64 Julien-K – “Your Tears Mean Nothing”

Former members of Orgy formed Julien-K in 2003, but I haven’t paid enough attention to them, probably because their guitar-heavy sound falls under industrial metal and electronic rock. On “Your Tears Mean Nothing,” they trade guitars for synthesizers to produce a dark, melodic sound right in my wheelhouse. This pitch-black banger goes for the jugular, especially that intense spoken-word bit at the one-minute mark.

63 Catherine Moan x Primer – “Pavement 2”

California artists Catherine Moan and Primer join forces to produce this ecstatic bit of ear candy. In less than three minutes, they introduce so many layers of sounds that “Pavement 2” constantly feels on the verge of wavering out of control. Yet they hold it all together with dreamy vocals and a thick, luscious bassline.

62 VH X RR – “Adrenochrome”

American synthpop duo VH X RR (that’s Von Hertzog and Rob Rowe) have been mainstays on my lists since they started releasing music in 2020. “Adrenochrome” is among their best songs—a warm, rich synthpop standard that tackles the rise of artificial intelligence with unexpected lines like “Machines will rise again. Under falling skies.”

61 Cuffed – “Deceiver”

California newcomers Cuffed have only released three songs so far, but their undeniable talent for songcraft makes them a promising act to follow. “Deceiver” is a charming and delightfully macabre song, especially the track’s rousing chorus of “Take my heart fatal desire, I can feel you in my blood.”

60 Accessory – “Opposite”

German project Accessory returned in 2023 with their first new music in nearly five years. “Opposite” is a study in contrasts: German lyrics meet English, thumping EBM beats clash into synthpop melodies. It’s all in service to one bangin’ hook: “We’re too opposite!”

59 Whorticulture feat. Solar Fake – “The Price of Fame”

When German wonders Solar Fake toured North America in 2022, they enlisted support from Colorado artist Whorticulture. The two bands must have hit it off because Sven Friedrich, the voice of Solar Fake, joined the emerging American act on this mesmerizing and catchy club hit, “The Price of Fame.”

58 Ultra Sunn – “Set Yourself on Fire”

On a blistering track called “Set Yourself on Fire,” Belgian duo Ultra Sunn combine brutal EBM beats with languid vocals to create a high-energy dance sound. The song’s echoey chorus gives way to knob-twisting electronics for a wild ride that should sound explosive on goth-industrial dancefloors.

57 Blackcarburning – “Losing Our Way”

It’s been far too long since we last heard from synthpop darlings Mesh. In the meantime, lead singer Mark Hockings hatched a solo project called Blackcarburning. His much anticipated debut album arrived in 2023 and avoids too many Mesh comparisons with experimental sounds and a slew of guest vocals. “Losing Our Way” sticks close to the Mesh formula, and that familiarity is probably what makes it one of my favorite cuts from the album.

56 Perpacity – “Ragnarök”

I’m a sucker for anything related to mythology. “Ragnarök” from synthpop duo Perpacity scratches that itch with an engaging and creative song that sounds like nothing else on this list. Spoken word opening. Zippy synth riffs. An otherworldly chant near the end. This sends me straight to Valhalla.

55 PART2 – “When the Dark Night Comes Around”

Synthpop project PART2 remains an enigma. With limited biographical information to be found online, I still don’t know where they come from. Last year’s gorgeous “Everything Is Here” made my top 100 songs list, and they move up a few notches this year with an even better track called “When the Dark Night Comes Around.”

54 Hatif – “On the Peripheral”

Swedish duo Hatif is building a reputation for unique sound effects like the hammering electronics from their song “Heridity,” the track I was originally planning to include on this list. I quickly replaced that one with my new favorite song from the band, the just released “On the Peripheral,” which includes earywormy vocals and another incredible effect—this time, it’s a sliding synth noise that makes this song transportive.

53 Pale Meridians – “Against the Tide”

Newcomers Pale Meridians caught my attention this year by turning the KISS classic “I Was Made for Loving You” into a drawling synthpop jam. Fortunately, their unique and mesmerizing sound translates to original material, too. “Against the Tide” showcases a knack for sharp hooks and strong melodies. I’m looking forward to more from this promising act.

52 Presence of Mind – “Leave Me Your Weapon”

Swedish trio Presence of Mind make classic, sentimental synthpop melodies with modern-day production techniques. Their 2023 album, Humans, is an excellent collection of vibrant synthpop. The album’s best track, “Leave Me Your Weapon,” offers urgent synth riffs and tender vocals.

51 Panic Lift – “Smash the Controls”

New Jersey band Panic Lift frequently veers into electro-industrial territory with screamy vocals and pummeling electronics. But “Smash the Control” is pure industrial pop. There’s still an aggressive edge, but the melodic side takes center stage on this catchy and compelling song.

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