We’ve made it to the end of another excellent year in music. Thanks for joining me this year and for sharing our love of synthpop and its many offshoots. See you again in 2023. I’ll continue to promote new music, mostly on Friday release days, and list my favorite tracks at the end of each month. Follow me on Facebook if you’d like to keep up with new posts.
The 25 albums below are the ones I enjoyed most this year. I hope you discover something below that you love as much as I do. I’ve included links to Spotify so you can sample these artists, and I’ve provided links to Bandcamp so you can invest in their futures. As always, if you do discover any artists on this list that you particularly love, I encourage you to purchase their music or merch.
- Best new synthpop artist of 2022: Current One
- The year in synthpop cover songs
- 10 best synthpop music videos of 2022
- 100 best synthpop songs of 2022: 100 to 76
- 100 best synthpop songs of 2022: 75 to 51
- 100 best synthpop songs of 2022: 50 to 26
- 100 best synthpop songs of 2022: 25 to 1
25 Mental Discipline – Nothing to Die For
It can be tough to stand out in the crowded futurepop landscape, but Russian artist Mental Discipline emerges from the pack with memorable songs that play well on dancefloors and in headphones. Standout tracks on Nothing to Die For include the sensual “My Name” for its tinkling keys and the faster paced “Remain in History” for combining elegant chimes with aggressive beats. Elsewhere on the album, Alex Mental employs notable turns from super producer Rob Dust on the captivating “Addict” and Beyond Border/In Good Faith singer Kai Németh on the hard rockin’ “Resistance.”
24 Vandal Moon – Queen of the Night
The hallmark of modern darkwave endures: a sleek combination of guitars, synths, and thumping drum machines. California project Vandal Moon runs with that template once perfected by the influential Sisters of Mercy but ups the ante with a fully formed concept about a young woman navigating a confusing world. The ambitious concept makes Queen of the Night feel like a complete listening experience. It helps that there are monster hooks: “Be my… sweet disaster,” “so young and so deadly,” “queen of the niiiiiiiiight.” And that’s just the first three tracks.
23 Lizette Lizette – Miss Gendered
Don’t be fooled by Lizette Lizette’s third album, Miss Gendered. While the title track and its provocative video confronts people who refuse to use the nonbinary icon’s correct pronouns, the rest of the album rarely strays so far into queer studies. On songs like gorgeous opener “Sorry” and the enthralling “You Lied,” Lizette instead tackles personal politics, exploring the dynamics of scarred relationships. Most of the songs on Miss Gendered take a softer approach, imbuing mid-tempo beats with sharp synth motifs and Lizette’s evocative vocals.
22 Emmon – Recon
Sweden’s electro queen Emmon exchanges her electroclash roots for hard throbbing body music on Recon. The album’s best tracks are “Purebloods,” which gets an assist on vocals from Agent Side Grinder’s Emanuel Åström, and “Machines,” which resembles a harder, moodier Royksopp-Robyn collab. Another big influence on the disc is Depeche Mode, whose presence can be felt on the gloomy “For Real,” while the industrial pop thumper “Reaction” fills the void left behind last year by Rein.
21 BLACKBOOK – Confessions of the Innocent
Most of the songs on Confessions of the Innocent, the debut album from Swiss synthpop duo Blackbook, should feel familiar to anyone who follows my site. With only three new tracks, it’s mostly a collection of singles the band has released since its 2018 inception, but wow, what a collection. This year’s “My Darkest Memory” showcases the band’s gift for infectious hooks, 2020’s “People are Fake” finds them at their most caustic, while debut single “Love Is a Crime” is a buoyant demand for queer equality.
20 Rue Oberkampf – Liebe
On their second album, German trio Rue Oberkampf run roughshod over genre trappings, merciless combining coldwave, techno, goth, and anything else they can get on their decks. But Liebe also contains an element of left-field, ethereal synthpop thanks to Julia de Jouy’s melodic vocals and verse-chorus-verse structure on standout cuts like “Hope & Fear” and “Somebody Else.” Other parts of the album, particularly cavernous bangers like “Control” and “Rise,” might feel at home on Berghain’s main floor.
19 Voicecoil – Strange Days
Colorado’s Voicecoil delivers another intense collection of driving beats on his fourth album. Strange Days has hooks for days, especially on standout tracks “Vesterbrogade” and “If/When,” which finds Mark Sousa pondering, “It’s not a question of if but a matter of when.” The album leans heavily on futurepop synth swirls that fill dancefloors, but Mark mixes in understated but beautiful elements like the piano line on “Why.” Not just a set of club tracks, Strange Days feels miraculous cohesive with emotionally resonant vocals that reflect our post-Covid world.
18 Vanguard – Spectrum
The Vanguard guys are angry. On their fifth album, they take aim at a number of adversaries, from former partners to older generations who stand in the way of progress. Outraged lyrics (“Removing the stench from your invasion,” for instance) topple across energetic beats that rarely deviate from a consistent, DJ-friendly BPM. Spectrum is a furnace blast of club anthems, and the clear standout is last year’s mammoth single, “Ragnarök,” which uses the great battle in Norse mythology as a metaphor for our present-day global annihilation.
17 Paradox Obscur – Morphogenesis
Greek duo Paradox Obscur record their brand of techno-infused coldwave in real time, using hardware synths and drum machines. I don’t know how they do it. All those layers of synth triggers, electronic flourishes, and techno beats sound monstrous. Every track on Morphogenesis feels incredibly tense as if the beats are about to overtake your ability to keep up. “Wild Silk” and “Animal Reactor” are the must-listen club bangers here, but don’t skimp on electropop leaning cuts like “Evo-Devo” and “Pollar.”
16 Lakeside X – Love Disappears
Following an 11-year absence, Prague’s Lakeside X wanted to make a big return for their third album. So they hired a big producer, Daniel Myer of Haujobb and Covenant fame. They achieved big results. Love Disappears sounds gargantuan. Their synths are slathered in reverb, which makes them feel like they’re echoing off a chamber wall. Songs like “Time Has Come” and “Out of This World,” which seemingly starts out as a ballad, gradually build from meager beginnings, giving them an epic quality.
15 Current One – Praeludium
Praeludium, the debut album from Sweden’s Current One, could have easily coasted on singles the project has released over the past few years. Instead, Current One delivered a collection of 10 new songs that demonstrate Markus Enström’s gift for spirited synth riffs and confessional storytelling. Listen to the contemplative charm of “You and I” and the darker tinted “Never Go Back” to understand why I named Current One the best new artist of the year.
14 X Marks the Pedwalk – New/End
Since returning from hiatus in 2010, German legends X Marks the Pedwalk have reliably produced a new album every two to three years. On New/End, their sixth since that hiatus, founder Sevren Ni-Arb’s partner Estefanía continues playing a large role in the band’s reinvention, performing lead vocals on all but three tracks. She’s effortlessly cool on the sublime “Sacred Ground,” magnificently soaring on the nostalgic “Yesterdays.” With some exceptions—the pre-release banger “Sailors at Dawn,” for instance—many of the tracks on New/End feel subdued and contemplative without sacrificing X Marks’ lofty production and exquisite songcraft.
13 Boy Harsher – The Runner (Original Soundtrack)
For their third studio album, minimal synth wizards Boy Harsher took a bit of a departure—The Runner serves as an original soundtrack to a short horror film the band made themselves. Songs like “Give Me a Reason” and “Tower” retain the gloomy claustrophobia the band is known for, but they add to their sound palette with creative guest singers like BOAN’s Mariana Saldana on the fun Italo pastiche “Machina” and Lucy’s Cooper B. Handy on the twinkly “Autonomy.”
12 Null Device – The Emerald Age
Exquisite harmonies and captivating synth arrangements remain at the heart of Null Device. But with each album cycle, the Wisconsin band led by Eric Oehler and Jill Sheridan adds something unexpected to their legacy. Their 2019 album Line of Sight toyed with world music, but in a post-pandemic/post-Trump era they’re frustrated if not outright angry. They tap that energy with a darker palette and darker thematic material on eighth album The Emerald Age. Here, the industrial menace of “Interrobang” and Eric’s Jean-Luc De Meyer-esque vocal delivery on “Snake Eyes” fit nicely with charged lyrics like “Delusion is your master” from “Flags” and “I still know what you did” from “(Not) Sorry.”
11 The Weeknd – Dawn FM
Is an album unworthy of consideration if it’s a massive mainstream hit with billions of streams? Not in my book. The Weeknd’s Dawn FM deserves to be here simply for the knockout trio of “Gasoline,” “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Take My Breath,” which mine sounds and melodies straight outta classic synthpop. But it’s also worthy of my attention for its darkly shimmering concept—Dawn FM is a make-believe radio station that plays in purgatory—even if some of the album’s backhalf incorporates smooth R&B sounds that aren’t typically in my wheelhouse.
10 A Projection – In A Different Light
Swedish post-punkers A Projection have shed the guitar-led sound of previous albums and perfected a twinkling synth motif they unspool across In a Different Light, giving it a marvelously cohesive feel. The songs remain edgy and instantly memorable thanks to strong hooks and songwriting chops. Choice cuts include “No Control” for its big dancefloor energy, “Anywhere” for its vivid storytelling, and “Darwin’s Eden” for its fog-shrouded atmosphere.
9 Solitary Experiments – Transcendent
If you need a pick-me-up, try one of these: “Never give up on yourself, there is no room for regret” or “Life is a challenge and you are strong” or even “Get your head out of the sand.” Solitary Experiments has made a career out of merging those kind of self affirmations with uplifting trance beats and beautiful melodies. Their eighth studio album contributes to their rep for grandiose anthems with “Every Now and Then” and “Head Over Heels” while making the occasional detour into SITD’s harsh electro territory.
8 RROYCE – RROARR
RROARR might be the most aptly named album of the year. The beats boom, guitars and synths bellow from the speakers, and at times the German trio RROYCE are literally screaming (just listen to the album’s barnstorming first single “Paranoiac SL”). There’s also a predator motif that claws its way out of the cover art and makes obvious appearances in the album’s opening banger “Venom” and more subtle ones in songs like “Another” (about sexual violence) and “Social Media Fake Friend” (about fictional personas online).
7 Unify Separate – Music Since Tomorrow
The first four songs on Unify Separate’s second album form one of the best four-track runs of the year. Music Since Tomorrow opens with a slow burn called “Closure” that explodes into last year’s big single “Dying on the Vine.” The following track “Solitude and I” tops moody beats with a flickering synth breakdown around the midway point, then “Embrace the Fear” closes the formidable set with electric guitar and a lovely vocal harmony. Be sure to stick around for the rest of the album’s compelling mix of alt-rock and synthpop.
6 Priest – Body Machine
Swedish synthpop band Priest evolves yet again and sees a big boost in popularity. Their third album mines influence from classic industrial and EBM—slinkier, minimal beats and cyberpunk themes abound. “Blacklisted” is a genuine industrial thumper, while “Hell Awaits” samples a Baptist preacher that recalls the great Front 242’s “Welcome to Paradise.” The album’s most offbeat moment, “Perfect Body Machine,” retains this darker spirit but mixes in a dash of ’80s pop glitz that could soundtrack your local rollerskating rink.
5 Zynic – Best Before End
German artist Zynic makes traditional synthpop in the spirit of legends like Alphaville and A-ha. So it’s no surprise to hear the ’80s all over his fourth album. He samples The Breakfast Club, launches “Land of the Free” with a request for ’80s music, and includes an unexpected cover of Freestyle’s 1985 electro standard “Don’t Stop the Rock.” Best Before End’s classic arrangements and gorgeous melodies may be its essence, but Zynic stands out from other ’80s revivalists with big hooks, gorgeous melodies, and a strong POV.
4 Sydney Valette – Home Alone
“This is too intense,” French artist Sydney Valette sings on “Crystal Hearts,” one of the deeper cuts from his sixth album. That’s an understatement. Home Alone opens with a lengthy media sample from writer/philosopher Alan Watts that’s not very reassuring—the world is basically doomed. The songs that follow seem to resonate with that message. “Violence was the answer,” he sings on the propulsive “Station Stop,” and later on perhaps the album’s most desolate song, he laments the children of war. The album’s booming beats make for awesome listening, but thematically it’s incredibly dire.
3 Unroyal – This Is Louder
Swedish duo Unroyal picks up where they left off in 2019 with another collection of elegant, sophisticated synthpop. Minimalist bleeps launch many of the tracks from the sardonic “Burn Your Records” to deeper cuts like “The Other Side of Me,” then burst into layers of sound and lovely, thoughtful lyrics. Their songs mine nostalgia without ever feeling old fashioned, crafting stories with lines like “We used to dance on whirling stages” and “I”m just a disco dancer” from opening track “After Life.” This Is Louder is not necessarily louder, but it’s bolder and brasher, the songcraft even more refined.
2 AEON RINGS – Enemy
About three minutes into the song “Lover,” the beat begins to swell and AEON RINGS’ Davey Partains jackknifes from a soothing synthpop timbre into a ferocious yell. “HATE ME,” he howls, over and over. It’s a nice indicator of the rage and the range that AEON RINGS is capable of. Enemy, his long-awaited debut album, runs the gamut from synthwave accents in “IO” to funky EBM percussion in “Adam Hadem,” always enveloping the listener in ruddy darkness and aiming his ire at his primary antagonist—himself.
1 CZARINA – Arcana
Last year’s bombastic singles “Atomic: Ad Initivm” and “Wonderland” set high expectations for CZARINA’s sophomore album, but nothing could prepare me for Arcana. The shock inclusion of guitar and martial drums on opening track “Celestial Satellities” convinced me I had wildly underestimated CZARINA. The American artist who now resides in Galicia, Spain, a mythical source of inspiration, continues to surprise across Arcana, her indelible vocals holding it all together with awe inspiring skill. There’s the sensual balladry of slow-burner “The Fox’s Wedding,” the graceful futurepop beats of album closer “Til the Last Star – Cosmos.” And then there’s “Excelsior,” with its mindblowing prog rock arrangement, not to mention its otherworldly chanting, which makes an encore in the equally sublime “Lost Lands.” Arcana is a complete experience from beginning to end and the best album of the year.