I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of 2023. This year has flown by. Starting next week, I’ll be sharing my end-of-year coverage. As I’ve done the past three years, I’ll kick things off with my pick for the year’s best new synthpop artist. Then we’ll start counting down the best videos, songs, and albums of the year.
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Before we get to that, let’s rewind a bit and revisit the best music of 2022 to put the synthpop landscape into context. Last year was full of surprises. The breakout return of Kate Bush’s avant-synthpop classic, “Running Up that Hill.” The shocking death of Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher. The return of long dormant synthpop bands. The unexpected was everywhere in 2022.
Best new synthpop artist of 2022
My pick for best new synthpop artist of 2022 was Current One, a solo project from Swedish musician Markus Enström. Current One was already on my radar thanks to a number of well-crafted singles (especially “Inside of Me“), but in 2022 he released his debut album, Praeludium. My favorite track from the album, “Never Go Back,” finds Markus at his most goth, dropping his voice into a deep rumble and singing of “walking in the shadows” and “wearing all black.”
To learn more about this synthpop artist, read my interview with Current One.
Best synthpop music video of 2022
California synth punks Sextile returned in 2022 from a four-year hiatus with a two-track EP called Modern Weekend/Contortion. Not content to make stand-alone music videos, they turned the EP’s two songs into a gritty double feature. In “Modern Weekend,” four young friends go for a joyride in a stolen car, jump into a stranger’s pool, then head for a train yard where they smash some shit up. The story continues in “Contortion” as the foursome sneaks into a nightclub where Sextile is performing.
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop videos of 2022.
Best synthpop song of 2022
Kite remains near the top of my list of the best synthpop bands in the world. (Note this is not a real list—it’s in my head and it changes with my mood.) In 2022, they released a double-single that includes one of their best songs ever, a buzzing thriller called “Panic Music.” This frenetic rush of anger and attitude finds singer Nicklas Stenemo blasting the “idiots in my life.” The now iconic video for “Panic Music” features Kite’s hand logo set ablaze in the Swedish countryside.
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop songs of 2022.
Best synthpop album of 2022
Two years ago, CZARINA unveiled two bombastic singles, “Atomic: Ad Initivm” and “Wonderland,” that set a high bar for her sophomore album. When Arcana arrived in 2022, it blew my mind. CZARINA incorporated so many unexpected elements—mythological storytelling, prog rock arrangements, otherworldly chants—into a cohesive and compelling sound that is wholly her own. More than a year later, Arcana continues to thrill, offering listeners undiscovered details and exciting new visuals. Next month, she’ll release another one of her glossy, innovative movie films for the album’s tenderest moment, “The Fox’s Wedding.”
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop albums of 2022.