The month of March 2020 is one that has shaped into the month of the isolated atmosphere. Not just musically, but one of gazing at sunsets out the window, watching the leaves sprout from the trees, and allowing us to find a greater bond with the natural aspects of the world. Since nature is one of the only acceptable places to explore right now, why not contract it with an atmospheric, synthetic soundtrack? After all, that’s what Indie Discotheque is here for -- to let you explore everything new for your ears. Load this list up, head outside, and soak in some atmosphere. Just don’t get near any humans while you do it.
1. Voyage - Aura
When it’s time to wind up a list of the best synth music, you have to start it with something amazing. Voyage has created that for us this month. The chill synth genre has been at the forefront for a long time now, and the atmosphere achieved in “Aura” is about as great as it gets.
2. AJ Salvatore - Malibu feat. Honeyfreckle
Yes, the synth work AJ Salvatore lays down on this track is fantastic, but it's the vocal performance from Honeyfreckle that really lets this one shine. As the chords progress, let the music make its way through you as you let yourself be immersed by synthetic sound.
3. Forhill - Iris
If you’ve followed my charts long enough, you’ll know that a sense of warmth is always a driving factor, and Forhill is a master at balancing the contrast between warmth and filter. I don’t quite know how it’s accomplished, but “Iris” is another absolutely gorgeous chill synth piece worth hearing.
4. Glassio - Nobody Stayed for the DJ
It’s always a sad situation when nobody stays for the DJ, but if that's what it takes to inspire great songwriting like this, then having it happen every once in a while is a worthy sacrifice. Glassio manages to find simplicity through building layers of sound that will surround you.
5. Austra - Anywayz
I’ve been a fan of Austra since her album Feel It Break was released nine years ago, and it’s always a joy to know there is new music for us to dive into. “Anywayz” might be one of her best releases in years, with the trademark vocal layering and complex synth harmonies we daydream about.
6. Color Theory - Juggernaut
I’m always so happy when there is new music from Color Theory because he writes synthpop that hearkens back to the stripped-down style of the nineties, with a very prominent, forward-facing vocal, subdued arranging, simple arpeggiations, and the essentials of fantastic songwriting.
7. Mitch Murder - Artifact
I had given up on Mitch Murder for a while, but "Artifact" brings back that thick, juicy synth that everyone craves. Who cares if it’s familiar, this is amazing synth playing overtop often imitated percussion structures. What stands out for me are the droning accent textures, conjuring visions of auto races through illuminated tunnels, the lights blurring past as you drive.
8. VIQ - Last Path
Is the “Last Path” a place of solitude? VIQ brings this imagery to the forefront with his latest piece. The last path is a journey up the hill to the edge of the city where you look over society in solitude, mountains accepting the sunset in the distance as the sky is awash in pink and gold.
9. Jessie Frye - Malibu Broken feat. Ollie Wride
I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised when I heard this song. A collaboration with Jessie Frye and Ollie Wride? Hell yeah! But this is way more retro wave than I expected. The songwriting is wonderfully accomplished, and the synth arrangements fit the overall theme of the track beautifully.
10. Gusgus - Out of Place
GusGus is a project that is truly classic. Back when I was in high school we used to joke about how there was Gus, GusGus, and Guster (who also used to be Gus), But little did I know then how much I would grow to appreciate their music over the years. “Out of Place” is a stellar piece of atmosphere, a layering of voice and synth that is beautifully immersive.
11. Jordan F - Without You feat. Gryff
I love how Jordan F approaches a straightforward pop song. Without You is a joyful piece of synthpop, expressing the glee of being single and dancing alone in the club. Gryff’s vocal performance is convincing, making me reminisce of the days when I was dancing on my own.
12. Roxi Drive - Breathe You feat. Nebula Black
I am not familiar with Nebula Black, so I’m glad Roxi Drive has the feature on this track to bring some attention. The vocal is very forward in the mix, and while "Breathe You" could be a bit more post-production massaging, the song itself is a get-stuck-in-your-head sing-along jam.
13. Big Black Delta - Summoner
Big Black Delta has created an instrumental wonder that transports you into another place. This song is dark, layered, and thick. “Summoner” lays it all down on the table, with layer upon layer of dark synth textures that keep your attention across the span of the piece.
14. Keep Shelly in Athens - Horizon’s Glow
I’ll admit I have a soft spot for Keep Shelly in Athens. It’s not because I want to keep her there, but because every time I hear new music from this project I want to hear more. “Horizon’s Glow” is another enjoyable piece with songwriting that will have you singing along.
15. Prizm - Move Me
Are you moved? “Move Me” is the latest from Prizm that will have you out on the dancefloor. What are you waiting for? We can’t last a minute more without dancing to this addictive melody.
Let's listen to it all together in this convenient playlist: