Each year, the synthwave genre grows and it matures. 2017 was certainly no different. Deciding on only ten albums to deem worthy as the best of the year was tough but in the end, it’s an excuse to celebrate a ton of great music created in just the last year. Feel free to disagree with each and every pick but here is my list for the ten best synthwave albums of 2017.
10. Kalax – Kalax
While I find the first song, Time Lapse, to be the album’s strongest, there’s enough magic in the second Kalax album to land him on this list. It has top-notch sound production throughout, with a wonderful mastering of layers to create a clean, dreamy sound.
9. Lazerhawk – Dreamrider
Fans of Lazerhawk have come to expect a certain level of quality. This one definitely meets those expectations. Listeners are kept on their toes as the album embraces a variety of sounds in the synthwave universe. Really enjoyable are tracks like Mirror Between Worlds bring you to the edge of a haunting melody without going completely dark.
8. Die Scum Inc. – My Fist is Fight: the Notion Picture Soundtrack
An artist I absolutely love, Die Scum Inc. nails it with a fictitious 80s movie montage soundtrack, especially with the appropriately title track Montage. Each song is simple yet surprising. Do yourself a favor and throw this whole album into your workout playlist. You’ll feel like the Next Next Karate Kid.
7. Stilz – Starcrash
Stilz makes the best of 2017 list with an atmospheric album dripping in sci-fi funk. Favorite track: Phase VI.
6. Dan Terminus – Automated Refrains
If you’re lucky, an album will take you on a wild journey. But with Automated Refrains by Dan Terminus, each and every song will do the trick. If you don’t believe me, just give throw on the 8 minute track Grimoire Blanc.
5. FM Attack – Stellar
Now we’re really hitting essential synthwave listening. This latest FM Attack album is one you can share with anyone, regardless of their familiarity with the genre. A complete album, each track stands on their own two legs. Yet, if I had to pick one to survive a musical deathmatch, I’d have to go with Inner Space. But truly each song is worthy of a listen.
4. Futurecop! – Return to Alvograth
Taking a look at the cover art to Return to Alvograth, you can almost expect a religious experience. Then when you actually listen to the album, you realize that’s fully the intention of Futurecop!. An truly beautiful album from start to finish, you’ll feel emotionally cleansed once it’s all done. The single Sarah (featuring Hunz) is absolutely heavenly.
3. Com Truise – Iteration
There’s something uniquely distinct with Iteration, that you won’t find with many synthwave artists. Or even with any previous works by Com Truise. Constantly flirting with the sounds of vaporwave, video games, and 80s retrofurism, this album plays with sounds unlike any other released in 2017. Another complete album where you can enjoy any track on its own. Propagation is a favorite, though.
2. Morgan Willis – Sophie Teenage Dream
Whether you lived the 80s or not, Sophie Teenage Dream will somehow manage to bring you back. Morgan Willis has created an album that just exudes nostalgia. Certainly his best album to date, you’ll be hooked from the jump with the song Sophie.
1. The Midnight – Nocturnal
Easily my most anticipated release of the year, I was fully expected to be letdown, even just a little bit. Nonetheless, The Midnight delivered more than I could have hoped for with Nocturnal. If you’re a fan of their previous work in Endless Summer, you can expect more of the same. Maybe just a little more grown up.
If you want to introduce a friend to the synthwave or retrowave scene, I can’t think of a better album capable of doing so. You can’t miss with the single, Crystalline