There is so much good synth music out there right now it's nice to be able to nit-pick a bit for a 15 song monthly chart. A great variety of sounds and styles. We have a few synth ballads including those from CHVRCHES, Priest, Betablock3r, Tuff City Kids and New Arcades. Some real space adventures including tracks from Terr and Morgan Willis, and amazing surprises from bands like Dead Sea, who absolutely floored me with their sound this month.
Indie Discotheque is here to give the goods and help you enjoy everything synth has to offer, the best synth tracks of April 2018.
1. Dead Sea - Know Where
The opening synth washing over you in the introduction of this track implies a sea that is anything but dead. Once the drums kick in and the ethereal guitar starts strumming we know we're in heaven. The vocals are dreamy, and it has beautifully well-balanced production. This four-piece band from France has a new EP out titled Colorate, released May 4.
2. CHVRCHES - Never Say Die
I'll admit right off the bat this isn't my favorite CHVRCHES song, but every new song doesn't have to be. If the synth work and vocals weren't so beautiful, with that guitar-sounding synth grind at the build adding such rich texture, I'd be more inclined to call it the chill EDM ballad the band is nodding to, with builds, drops, repetitiveness, claps and the like. But let it be known, this song still gives me the chills while listening to it. Bravo.
3. Perel - Alles
Droning guitar strum over clean disco beats and spooky synth risers? Yes, please. Berlin's Perel really delivers with this track, a steady vocal rhythm sung with passion and purpose. The overlaid snare drum and handclap throughout the song is such a steady continuing element of the song. A simple, repetitive synth bridge ties the body of the song to its close, slowly deconstructing itself to a simple note echoing the song's conclusion.
4. Alex & Megan McDuffee - Hero
I like the bloops. That's my initial reaction to this song, with a wet synth arpeggiation throughout and Megan McDuffee's sweet vocal style. I feel like she's a bit timid and needs vocal projection to better mesh with the dreamscape flowing behind her, particularly when the song topic is about alter egos, legends, heroes, burning fires, traveling at the speed of light, and the rest. That rising synth twinkle throughout the song, though. I like the bloops.
5. Terr - Have You Ever
Arpeggiations aside (I'm such a sucker for a good arpeggiation), the percussion programmed into this track reminds me so much of the beats underlying some of the great industrial tracks of the late 80s. This track, of course, is much cleaner than those, but the connection is in my brain nonetheless. This is a percussive song, with percussive sounding lyrics. Terr's vocal, with content straight from the themes of the Cosmos series, is monotonous and could use just a bit of melody.
6. Modes - Secret feat. Caitlin Stubbs
Caitlin's voice has just the right amount of rising and falling, a bit of that Michael Jackson quiver when she needs it, a warmth that really meshes well with the synth works on this track by Modes. The melodies, the song structure, there are no secrets being exposed here, but the production of the song is stellar. The guitar solo in the final quarter of the song is satisfying. The song concludes by repeating the word "Secret" a whopping 20 times.
7. Night Drive - Anyone's Ghost
Night Drive is a band more people need to cover who consistently, so satisfyingly bring us synth-laden dance tracks with well processed, emotional vocal. I swear if Brendan Perry wasn't still alive I'd think Rodney Connell was him incarnate. This band has come so far over the five years they've been together and yet this still seems like the beginning. Their first LP was released last year and I'm always looking forward to their next release.
8. Betablock3r - Make You Happy
Betablock3r reached out to me this month, expressing how few true indie dance resources there are out there these days. I'm happy to be one of the few that are keeping that gap filled. "Make You Happy" is a beautifully written, synth-laden pop ballad, with a steady percussive bed to keep you moving with the one that makes you smile. The piano work in the introduction is satisfying in a Bruce Hornsby kind of way, and I wish it was carried throughout the song. Perhaps we'll get that epic piano solo later this year, as I'm told there are a lot of upcoming releases to get excited about.
9. New Arcades - Inhale feat. Lula
The new EP from New Arcades, Nothing Is Lost, is now available, and one of the highlights from the EP is "Inhale," a song featuring Lula about abruptly picking up and leaving everything behind. The synth work on the song sets the stage for this emotional ballad beautifully, with classic percussion rhythms and echoing stabs throughout the song to drive the point home.
10. Morgan Willis - Professor Omega feat. Paradise Walk
I love how this song starts with a collect call and modem connection sounds, driving the point home right away that the entire purpose of this song is to be a fun, retro thriller. The song is almost too spacey, overusing the echo effect on almost everything, including the narrative elements which are difficult to understand. This doesn't mean the song isn't a worthy retro floor filler. Distinct queues reminiscent of Michael Jackson's work are found in the percussive bass, and funk lord synth swirls and the like fill the song to the brim with nostalgia. Morgan Willis has my attention and I'll be keeping an eye out for future releases.
11. Mt Si - 911 (Tuff City Kids Remix)
Tuff City Kids' introductory arpeggiation in this song is so warm and bouncy it makes me chair dance without even having to think about it. I love the glass bottle tapping accent percussion peppered throughout the song. Sarah Chernoff takes complete command of the song with her vocal, it's steady but reserved, talking herself through an anxiety-filled morning, readying herself to start the day. After each verse we get an upper range arpeggiation that drives some of that anxiety into the forefront, closing out the song with moaning in preparation for the coming day.
12. Scandroid - 2518 (Arcade High Remix)
What an introduction to this song. It's grand, majestic, saying, "HERE I AM" before floating to the first verse of the song. Arcade High really makes this song their own, giving it a structure that provides a progression and continuity pleasing to follow. While the soundtrack gives subtle nods to glitch, it's restrained enough to keep the song entertaining without going overboard. The song loses a bit of momentum past the halfway point, an unnecessary interest dropper, but the song reinvigorates itself by picking up the tempo again. I really like the textures applied and the emphasis on the "2518" lyric. Scandroid's remix LP, Dreams In Monochrome, is out now.
13. Olivera - No More
This song is smooth, with a real modern pop sensibility and treatment while maintaining a retro synth touch. I really like the way the vocals are processed in this song, with moments of clarity and vocoder do differentiate between vocal sections. This is a relationship song through and through, a story about the urge to fall for someone after a hard breakup, desiring rebound relationships with strangers, but maintaining control of yourself. The song was produced by Lenno, and I hope they team up again for future songs.
14. Italoconnection - King of the Night
This is an absolutely fantastic, authentic sounding Italo synthwave marriage that really brings me back to the late 90s, early 00's synthpop like Cause & Effect and Cosmicity. While Italoconnection has slightly juicier synth layers than these bands, I think the vocal style is in a similar vein. While Metropoli is their latest, the band from Milan has had a few releases over the last 5 years, and "King of the Night" is a dance floor driven tune that'll make you sing along with your hands in the air.
15. Priest - New King
I included Priest in my indie chart for the month of January, and I'm really happy to have "New King" included in this month's synth chart. Recently released on her EP, Lost Lions, this track has an 80s ballad sensibility with a great synth backdrop, great vocal effects, and big percussive elements that drive home a king-like importance to the track. The harmonic synth introduction, paired with Priest's words about "holding bags of dreams" meshes perfectly with the song's majestic theme of wonder and power.