The best synthpop songs of 2022 (so far)

My favorite tracks from the first half of the year.

I’m late producing this list. Most years I try to have it out by the solstice to truly mark the start of summer and the ceremonial halfway point of the year. But it’s late this year because, well, I’ve been busy. Life returned to normal in 2022.

Work is bonkers right now. I’ve been going to clubs a lot. I even traveled to a big music festival in California that was so hot I thought I was going to melt. For the last two years, I mostly discovered new music alone at home, but this year I finally got to experience it again with friends on the dancefloor or crowds at concerts. And I’m all the better for it. Music hits different when you’re with others—the joy it brings can be infectious.

It’s been a solid year so far for music from veteran acts and newcomers alike—I’ve already seen a few of the artists below in concert this year and heard some of the others on dancefloors thanks to the astute DJs in my area. I expect the rest of the year to continue. There are many more concerts and nights out in my immediate future.

Here are my 25 favorite songs from the first half of 2022. These are listed alphabetically by artists’ names because I’m not ready to commit to ranking them.

Boy Harsher feat. Ms. BOAN – “Machina”

Italo disco made a big bubbling splash in 2021, led in part by new project Nuovo Testamento. American duo Boy Harsher join the craze with this infectious gem perfectly crafted for roller discos. “Machina” features a guest vocal from Ms. BOAN’s Mariana Saldaña and appears in Boy Harsher’s short horror film The Runner.

Current One – “Never Go Back”

Swedish newcomer Current One has been steadily cranking out catchy singles like last year’s “Inside of Me.” This year, he released his debut album, Praeludium, which includes the dark hued “Never Go Back,” my favorite track from the album.

CZARINA – “Excelsior”

We knew CZARINA could deliver vocal acrobatics and thrilling bombast thanks to last year’s singles “Wonderland” and “Atomic: Ad Initivm.” But nothing could prepare us for this masterpiece. “Excelsior” is all skittering histrionics that topple through genres, while CZARINA provides a masterclass in vocal gymnastics. Her rhythmic chant is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

Dead Lights – “Doom Doom Trash”

International duo Dead Lights is one of the hottest new bands on the scene thanks to their sleazy, pulse-pounding sound and their androgynous, visceral style. “Doom Doom Trash,” the title track from their 2022 EP, is a ripper filled with wry, devilish charm.

Ego Bliss – “Need”

Mexican project Ego Bliss makes the kind of vital futurepop I can’t get enough of—pulsating beats, dynamic synthlines, beautiful melodies. Their Future EP opens with a dire warning about androids that’s straight out of science fiction, but track four, “Need,” delivers the EP’s emotional impact.

Fused – “Nightlife”

English act Fused started out producing Depeche Mode covers and soon converted to originals that bear DM’s DNA. The project typically releases a handful of excellent singles each year, but in 2022 he unveiled a full-length called Exhibition that collects several recent tracks and includes one new song, this effusive ode to nightlife.

Gore Gloss – “Famous”

Gore Gloss is a barely known Canadian project with a deep, crooner’s voice and a dynamite production style. On “Famous,” his zeitgeist-capturing dissection of folks pursuing fame, he swaps in a series of playful taps that make this track feel fresh and offbeat. I suspect he won’t remain unknown for long.

j:dead – “Hold Tight”

“Hold Tight” is my favorite track from j:dead’s 2022 EP, Vision of Time, and it’s a nice showcase of Jay Taylor’s lovely voice. He performs most of the song with soothing synthpop melodies, though you can still hear his signature aggressive flex in the mix. This remains one of the best emerging artists in the dark music scene.

Kite – “Panic Music”

Kite’s “Panic Music” is a frenetic blast of venom and attitude that finds vocalist Nicklas Stenemo unleashing on the “idiots in my life.” It’s the Swedish duo’s first song since partnering with post-industrial wizard Blanck Mass for a series of incredible tracks, and the partnership has clearly paid off—Kite is angrier and more dynamic than ever before.

Lights of Euphoria – “Man and Machine”

German electro project Lights of Euphoria has joined the ranks of bands releasing a new song every month, and the trend is proving lucrative—their 2022 singles have been some of their best work in years. June edition, “Man and Machine,” is a melodic dance track with a lovely, memorable chorus I can’t get out of my head: “Beautiful pain, beautiful lies. I’m just a simple man in disguise.”

Mercury Machine – “Second Life”

UK band Mercury Machine combine synthesizers and guitars into a proggie sound I’m really digging lately (Icelandic band Legend are another artist in this space, but we haven’t heard from them in a while). “Second Life” is a propulsive synth rocker in which every element shines—from the deeply effecting vocals to the shimmering synths.

My Hysteria – “Golden”

My quest for best new artist of 2022 may have reached its conclusion. English newcomer My Hysteria is a promising act making the type of dark synthpop I devour: equal parts gloom and uplift. He’s released a number of tracks this year, and there’s more on the way, but standout single “Golden” feels like peak futurepop reemerging in the post-COVID era.

O+HER – “Brave Bodies Burn”

One of the best new acts of the year is actually a pair of seasoned vets: solo artist Tobias Bernstrup and ABU NEIN singer Erica Li Lundqvist. “Brave Bodies Burn,” the debut single from their new project O+HER, is a mesmerizing exercise in despair that combines Italo twinkles, darkwave guitars, and two phenomenal voices.

Paradox Obscur – “Wild Silk”

On “Wild Silk,” Greek duo Paradox Obscur merge powerful techno beats with meaningful vocals. It’s a big, beautiful blast of energy that’s one of the standout tracks from their 2022 full-length Morhphogenesis, which was reportedly recorded in real time with hardware synths and drum machines.

Prayers feat. Robert Harvey – “Black Dove”

I’m willing to admit that the first time I heard “Black Dove,” I bristled at its abrasive rap verses. Then I listened to it again and again, and I fell in love with its chorus, a genuine synthpop bop, and the way Prayers, the pioneers of the chologoth movement, hotwire their disparate influences into a wild new vibe that sounds like nothing else out there.

Priest – “Blacklisted”

On the eve of their third LP’s release, Priest’s popularity seems poised to explode: The Swedish act has a song appearing in a Hollywood thriller, and they just announced that they’ll be joining industrial titans Combichrist on a European tour. Their latest single, “Blacklisted,” is an industrial thumper that demonstrates the band’s versatility in dark electronic music.

Rue Oberkampf – “Hope and Fear”

“Hope and Fear,” the timely opening track from Rue Oberkampf’s phenomenal second album, captures our feelings from the COVID years and births a new direction for the project that balances technoid electronics with Julia de Jouy’s melodic vocals. They can still rip through fog-shrouded dancefloors but with meaningful new context.

Sextile – “Contortion”

I saw Sextile at this year’s Cruel World festival in Los Angeles, and they immediately shot to the top of my new favorite bands list. The act brings throbbing synth-punk energy to the stage, and fortunately their songs pack the same fire in your headphones. This year, they released a pair of complementary songs. “Contortion” is the dark, nighttime half that features wild sound effects—Sextile bend bass noises like rubberbands.

Sydney Valette – “Station Stop”

I slept on this Sydney Valette single when it was released in April, but it’s been on heavy rotation for the past month. Every perfect element adds up to darkwave bliss: Sydney’s crater-deep vocals, those powerful HUHs, the bells, and the rollicking, progressive house beat that is one of the best basslines of the year. I can’t wait for this full-length in September.

Solitary Experiments – “Every Now and Then”

The beloved German band Solitary Experiments has perfected their style of joyous, life-affirming futurepop—if you haven’t danced to “Delight” or “Epiphany” under pulsating strobe lights, have you even been to a goth club in the last 15 years? “Every Now and Then,” the first single from their upcoming 2022 album, doesn’t stray far from the formula, and we wouldn’t want it to. This is a gorgeous, wide-eyed anthem as only Solitary Experiments can deliver.

TR/ST – “The Shore”

“The Shore” arrives three years after TR/ST delivered the best album of 2019, and he remains firmly planted in his mature phase, delivering industrial beats, experimental electronics, and the nasally, extraterrestrial vocals Robert Alfons is known for. As with most TR/ST songs, it’s nearly impossible to decipher Robert’s lyrics, but he might be singing about reaching the safety of shore after suffering a romantic loss. Whatever it’s about, it’s dark and moody just how I like it.

Unroyal – “After Life”

One of my favorite new artists, Sweden’s Unroyal, has been releasing mature, effervescent singles since signing with influential label, Progress Productions. “After Life,” which features a guest verse from Swedish performer Jakob Algesten, finds the band dropping headscratching lyrics like “I’m just a disco dancer.” I really have no idea what this song is about, but it’s melancholic synthpop at its finest.

Video L’Eclipse – “Signals”

Another new favorite, Video L’Eclipse, also hails from Swedish, arguably the finest exporter of synthpop in the world. The duo follows up their incredible full-length debut, last year’s Predicts, with a thriller that combines Cold War beats and resonant vocals. On “Signals,” they add media samples to the mix, imbuing the track with a bit of heady psychosis.

The Weeknd – “Gasoline”

Canadian pop artist The Weeknd has been flirting with the dark scene for decades: he sampled Siouxsie and the Banshees and Cocteau Twins early in his career, and lately he’s been mining glistening ’80s synthpop with the help of one-time Necro Facility member Oscar Holter. So it’s really no surprise that his latest album is a treatise on approaching death. On the album’s best track, “Gasoline,” he affects an Ian Curtis-esque monotone and sings of staring into the abyss, then setting his corpse on fire.

Zynic – “My Darkness”

You won’t find a better—or more heartbreaking—opening couplet this year than this one: “Misery loves company, I’m drowning here in your friendly fire.” German artist Zynic smartly pairs such dire lyrics with bubbly trad synthpop, making “My Darkness” the most compelling track on an album full of them.

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