It's time for another month of that sound we all crave and love, that synthetic sound, that satisfying aural treatment that seems to fix everything. Synth. There are so many recipes, so many ways to prepare it, but it always satisfies in a way that other music instrumentations simply don't.
The folks at Indie Discotheque take a really unconventional approach when it comes to synth, and with that is the simplicity in which songs are chosen. Overall artist genre cast aside, what's being looked at is single and the single only. Is this a well-produced song? Is synth the primary instrumentation? Is it something I'd want to hear in the club?
This month is another spectacular collection, so let's enjoy it. Here are the best synth tracks for the month of May.
1. Uffie – Drugs
Don’t walk away from Uffie. The drugs and the clubs are nowhere near as awesome. This is Uffie at her most vulnerable, the most stripped down I’ve ever heard her. The lyrics are to the point, with phrases like “don’t need your Gucci sorrys.” Warm synth rhythms build behind her with each verse. The simplicity of the song and the way her voice stands apparently adds a layer of seriousness to her message. I’m so glad Uffie is back and I’m excited to hear what else she has for us this year.
2. Molina – Hey Kids feat. Late Verlane
Another slow jam, the synth work in this song is fantastic. The arpeggiation in the introduction sets a warm tone, and I love how each verse has its own treatment. The choral bridge is beautiful. I would love to listen to an extended version of it remixed into a new song.
3. TimeCop1983 – Back to You feat. The Bad Dreamers
This track does a phenomenal job capturing a combination relationship theme and night driving music. Shadows, echoes, memories. This is a breakup song and he’s doing his best to get over it, but still trying to find his way back. This song uses an enveloping synth swirl, pulling you in with an aural drone, the glow of the night sky, driving all night trying to find your way.
4. ALEX & Megan McDuffee – Quest
ALEX and Megan McDuffee are having fun with this music they’re putting out, and the vibe is apparent. I made some criticism in a previous chart featuring this duo, but with "Quest" those issues are alleviated. McDuffee really compliments the music Alex is writing on this track, particularly with the way her voice is mixed into the introductory build of the song. The synths are applied thick in the background, but the lighter sparkle of arpeggiation really lighten the song up and keep the song a pleasure to listen to.
5. Chad Valley – See-Through
Chad’s singing is so clear, it’s a joy to hear such steady sound and projection from his voice. The music is very well-designed pop, with crisp percussion and glowing synth textures. The vocals are laden with catchphrases and don’t have much depth on first listen, with “give it up,” “all I want, all I need,” “sometimes,” even the premise of the song, “see through it all.” But with such a beautifully crafted song and vocal performance, it’s easy to look over and enjoy it for what it is.
6. ||||| (Lines) – We Will Never Rule the World
I love the synth stabs in this song, the way Lines uses key runs for effect, and industrial-leaning percussion treatment. The song sits on the premise of having fun, a mid-00s party vibe in the vocal style of Uffie in that era, referencing fast cars and fast food. The combination of a lighthearted topic over serious beats is a great contrast and lightens up the weight of the music.
7. Cloud Battalion – Storm City
Any song that starts with rain falling is a song that I listen to because it can go in so many directions. Wet weather, being stuck out into a vulnerable open, really bring you into a place of memory. Once the synths come into play you know you’re going to get a song that is completely epic. Everything about this song is thick, wet, and laid heavy. Thunderclaps, grand melodies, a soundtrack for a hero on a mission.
8. OSC – Cold Heart feat. J Frederick
A well-written synthpop song with a clear, easy to understand vocal treatment. This is a borderline nu-disco synth jam with smooth guitar strumming and a lyrical love story about feelings, running from the truth, and seeing people for who they are. I love the synth solo in the bridge.
9. VHS Dreams – Rollerblade
The beat kicks in on this track and you know you’re in for dancefloor heaven. George Dervenagas aka VHS Dreams from the UK does an excellent job conveying motion with sound. The title of the track conveys imagery of people rollerblading along the beach, with waves of wet synth crashing along the shores. You can hear the palm trees blowing in the breeze during the breakdown.
10. Mike Spawn – The Last Ride feat. NorthLock
The arpeggiation and synth stab make this track great, but the vocal treatment brings the song to a whole new level. Synthwave producers, take note – a great vocal can bring your track that something extra. I love the design of the percussion in this track, and the way guitar is used subtly as a background treatment in distinct moments of the song.
11. KWOL & Anjulie – Just Words (Lifelike Remix)
Satisfaction through simplicity is the name of the game on this track, with deep bass and large cowbell sounds transitioning into fully surrounding synth chords that amplify the voice of Anjulie to an elevated stance, holding you to a point of not letting go. This level of aural envelopment is difficult to achieve and Lifelike does an admirable job with this remix.
12. Blytt – Closer
I love the stereo effect of the drum work in the design of this track. The lyrics are beautifully processed and mixed perfectly with a warm synth backdrop. The chorus of this song just sails with steady sound, making you feel like you’re standing above it all, an air of confidence that really shines. Everything is touched with an ethereal swirl, wrapping you in the sound.
13. Carbon Killer – The Runaway (Part 1)
The steady synth stabs leading into a fog of mystic, flute-like synths conjure imagery of desperation, searching for where you need to go. Then the destination is pinpointed, and away we go. A twinkling arpeggiation leads us into a tightly compressed vocal, determined and dark. This song gets serious as it progresses, steady and strong, running into the night.
14. The Night Game – The Outfield (The Midnight Remix)
Getting left out into the cold is never a pleasant experience, and relationships that are one-sided can create these situations. The Midnight does an excellent job with the synth work here, taking a song that is stripped down in its original version and bringing the desperation and emotion of Martin Johnson’s vocal to the forefront.
15. Bunny X – Stay
The synth is spooky, the beat is steady, the vocals are brooding. Right away we’re told not to take this the wrong way, but we still must live. It’s not going to be figured out today, but she wants you to stay. The darkness of the soundtrack is well fitting to the topic, providing a clarity and determination as a contrast to the lyrical topic of miscommunication.