The 7 Most Essential Synthwave Artists

Mitch Murder

Discovering a Hidden World

The first time I listening to Synthwave I wasn’t even aware that that’s what I was doing. My first encounter with Synthwave was during the soundtrack of the excellent 2011 film, Drive. I was lucky enough to have a friend willing to see it with me and a venue that would show it in Dubuque, Iowa. Occasionally, less mainstream movies could make it to a local independent theater a few months after it debuted in major cities.

What really struck me about the film was the opening song, “Nightcall” by Kavinsky. After finding Kavinsky online, I was finally able to listen to “Nightcall” on repeat; letting the song soundtrack my own night drives on highway I-88. I found other tracks by Kavinsky and soon looked into other artists from Drive like Electric Youth and College. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The Appeal of the ’80s

When thinking of some of your favorite bands, it would only take some preliminary research to learn of at least one or two of the artists that influence their sound (The Strokes have the Velvet Underground, Kanye West – Nas, Daft Punk – Kraftwerk, etc.), but when it comes to Synthwave artists, it isn’t so much bands from their childhood that inspire them, rather it’s ’80s films, cartoons and video games. Sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, The Running Man and RoboCop, and video games like Out Run, Street Fighter and F-Zero must run in the minds of Mitch Murder and Robert Parker constantly.

I’ve grown to love many of these artists and have even sought out classic ’80s sci-fi flicks and TV shows to see just how Synthwave artists have interpreted the past. However, despite the successes of many artists of the genre there are a lot of pretenders and copycats that aren’t worth your time. This list provides an easy starting point to the best artists Synthwave has to offer.

Mitch Murder

Mitch Murder

If you’ve ever had the uncontrollable urge to drive a crotch-rocket at blazing speeds past evil corporate spies, hack your way into your favorite computer game to beat the evil boss or just soak up some rays with your high school crush in South Beach, then Mitch Murder is the artist for you. Mitch Murder is described as, “an overworked Wall Street I.T. guy from the ’80s who dreams at night other realities for himself. His music is the soundtrack to those dreams.”

Mitch is the most complete artist in the scene because of his sheer range and unmatchable authenticity.  His SoundCloud profile alone features over 70 different songs which cover just about everything ’80s you can think of, from classic Saturday morning cartoons, sci-fi movies, and of course, Mr. T. The best entryway into his vast discography would be his new full length, Interceptor, which debuted on Mad Decent.

Do yourself a favor and check out “Best of the Best” if you ever need some extra motivation to learn karate.

Electric Youth

Electric Youth may be the second most popular choice besides Kavisnky when it comes to Synthwave. Electric Youth got their first hit on the Drive soundtrack with the dreamy “A Real Hero”, but they didn’t stop there. The Canadian duo may not put out songs at the same pace as some of their counterparts, but every track they do release is crafted with care and warrants your attention. What separates Electronic Youth from the pack is no doubt the vocals, as most Synthwave artists are producers who don’t sing on their tracks. When vocals are required, many will call up guns-for-hire vocalists like Kristine or Dana Jean Phoenix. Electronic Youth aren’t afraid to lend a hand either, however, and have made cameos with Room8, Miami Nights 1984 and Le Matos. It’s also very hard to deny their heart-on-their-sleeves expression which is sadly lacking in the Synthwave scene.

Get Along” is a perfect example of Electronic Youth’s emotion as they vie for us all too… well you know.

Robert Parker

Robert Parker

Robert Parker is obsessed with ‘80s sports cars and honestly probably watches episodes of Knight Rider on a daily basis (who could blame him?), but the coolest thing he’s done lately is make his Modern Moves EP. With its timely release in July, Modern Moves is a tribute to summer and fits nicely alongside the Miami Vice intro.

“Velour Virtues”, the leading track on Modern Moves will make you want to wake up early and go rollerblading along South Beach wearing far too much neon.

Anoraak

A veteran on the scene, Anoraak has been keeping the ’80s dream alive since 2008 with Nightdrive With You. Besides his low humming, hypnotic singing, Anoraak played by most of the Synthwave rules by utilizing neon-heavy album artwork and referencing cars or driving in the titles of songs.

Anoraak has evolved since then, moving beyond the conventions of the genre. Synthesizers are still his bread and butter, but he sings more confidently and the sound has a more live feel. Lately, all Anoraak wants to do is make you dance, damn it. And you will do so gladly.

Just a few weeks ago Anoraak reimagined “Living On A Tape” for summer.

Kristine

Speaking of summer, there is no artist in the scene that does summer better than Kristine. Kristine does a fine job producing her own tracks but her voice is what makes every Synthwave artist want to collaborate with her. In her “’80s as fuck” (as one SoundCloud commenter put it) single the “Deepest Blue”, Kristine can’t get through the first verse of the song without uttering the word summer. Her songs with Mitch Murder, “Alright” and “Summer of Heat”, are also dedicated to the warmer months of the year.

Kristine would have been a dime a dozen in the ’80s, but now her voice and singing style offers a novelty that is highly sought after.  I bet she would have made an excellent addition to The B-52s back in the day.

Listen to Mitch Murder and Kristine chill out about summer love on Alright.

Miami Nights 1984

Being one of the biggest players, and one of its first contributors, Miami Nights 1984 (A.K.A. Michael Glover) is a must-listen for anyone delving into Outrun or Synthwave. Ironically, Glover lives in Victoria, BC, Canada – or maybe not so ironically – as what could possibly sound more perfect than Miami to a Canadian in the coldest days of January? Glover, it seems, provides escapism for himself and his listeners are just along for the ride.

You can consider Miami Nights the prototypical Synthwave artist – songs that resemble a soundtrack from a movie, repetitive melodies, layered synthesizers and a neon album cover with a sports car speeding by that looks like it was straight out of Tron. If all of that isn’t enough, Glover hits you over the head with his damn name – no one need be confused as to what Miami Nights 1984 is all about.

Miami Nights is responsible for some of the best remixes in the game. Listen to the Eightiesfied version of “Somebody That I Used To Know

Perturbator

Perturbator

Think Electric Youth and Kristine are a little soft for your taste? Let the inner head-banger out with Perturbator. Winning the award for weirdest name, Perturbator (AKA James Kent) has made it cool for metal kids to like electronic music again. Kent, who is from France, grew up on his parent’s taste for American metal bands and wanted his band name to rhyme with Terminator, which would’ve been lot cooler if it didn’t rhyme with another familiar English word.

Perturbator is best known for his contribution to the soundtrack of Hotline Miami, an award-winning retro shooter. Listen to that track called,“Miami Disco”.

 

Want more Synthwave? Check out my follow up article – Synthwave Guide to Surviving Winter!

 

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  • bubwen

    This is a weak ass list. And no FM Attack? Shameful.

    • Christopher Higgins

      FM Attack barely missed the cut. Who else would you have put on the list?

      • bubwen

        Le Matos

        • rich

          Lol yeah right. weak shit man.

        • Slava

          Love them!

      • luigi

        Javarnanda, Muscle, Vincenzo Salvia, A Space Love Adventure, Cobra Copter…lot of great talent!

    • Mekayl Krauss

      Maethelvin, College (Who basically form the Valerie collective) and not to forget the other existing members like Minitel Rose…
      Other artists like Betamaxx also deserve a place on the list otherwise the list is pretty complete… with a few exceptions (FM ATTACK).

  • John Sorensen

    Thanks, I love Synthwave.

  • M0GL13

    Great list man! Those guys def are on top. BUT definitely you need to add some guys. Power Glove <<< most notable for making soundtrack for videogame "FarCry3 : Blood Dragon" – which id like to add was my introduction to genre. Noir Deco , Dynatron , Mega Drive (<<< you think pertrubator is hard well check this guy out and if you want totally harsh sound than have a listen of some GOST). How about College? Protector 101, Garth Knight AND COM FUCKING TRUISE!! LAZERHAWKKKKKKK Betamaxx, Nightcrawler, Vincenzo Salvia, VHS Glitch (superb !!!)Apollo Zapp , Timecop 1983, Trevor Something <<< gosh if you enjoy Anoraak you gotta love this. Sellarekt/LA Dreams – wow just eargasms all the time !
    These guys have been in the scene for quite some time and are on top as well (hence i didnt list you my favourite bands but those who actually made a pretty big impact)

    • Christopher Higgins

      Thanks! I definitely enjoy Power Glove, Lazer Hawk, Betamaxx, Timecop and the excellent Trevor Something. You clearly are very familiar with this genre, so I’m not surprised you found the list lacking! I’m thinking of a new installment soon, so stay tuned though!

    • Brian Lorraine

      Everyone loves Com Truise, but he’s in a league of his own, man. Not sure I’d even belittle his music by trying to put it in a category or stick in on a list to compare. 5 bucks says he gets a friggin’ grammy one day

    • http://www.luckyandlove.com April Love

      totally!

  • http://www.synthetix.fm Rick Thorpe

    Please visit Synthetix.FM for more of the best 80s inspired synthwave music.

    • Wildsy

      Its true….this guy is an expert

    • http://www.luckyandlove.com April Love

      I’ll check it out!

  • Christofer Chavanne

    You can’t make a list that will appeal to everyone but as mentioned earlier, an artist like Lazerhawk should definitely be in the top5, Sellorekt/LA Dreams might be a competitor for top7 or certainly top10. They produce a lot and rarely a bad track.
    Maybe not as influential but a great artist is Tommy ’86, Great songs. As far as I know Robert Parker is fairly new to the game. I also miss Maethelvin with his Plan B as one of the greater that could make the cut.

    • Christofer Chavanne

      Not saying I don’t like Robert Parkers Music. I love it. ;)
      All in all a good list. :)

    • Brian Lorraine

      Gotta give props for his list at least being full of great artists. Especially Anoraak, Miami Nights 1984, and Purturbator

  • Steve

    It’s a shame the guy has never released his music officially, and that he’s “quit” the biz several times, because he’s been around the longest (from what I hear as far back as 2006) and IMO, his music resonates with your emotions the most powerfully. As one commenter said, “While all these other synth artists are trying to copy the sounds of the 80’s, his music sounds like it’s actually FROM the 80’s and he’s transmitting his music to us through time”. And I’m talking about the one, the only, the greatest…MPMSoundtracks.

  • Mekayl Krauss

    Maethelvin, College (Who basically formed the Valerie collective) and not to mention the other existing members like Minitel Rose and Russ Chimes…
    Other artists like Betamaxx also deserve a place on the list, otherwise the list is pretty complete… with a few exceptions (FM ATTACK and Power Glove).

  • Brian Lorraine

    lazerhawk , fm attack, and JUDGE BITCH. Seriously.. if you havent heard judge bitch’s GRIDIRON album

  • Brian Lorraine

    BTW what is the main pic from with the 8 bit dude smoking the cigarette?

    • Christopher Higgins


      enjoy!

      • Brian Lorraine

        That’s like an old Sierra computer game mixed with a KMFDM video by Aiden Hughes

  • http://www.shadhome.com/ Shad

    Thank you for this list !

  • The TCR

    No Lazerhawk? boooo

  • Cynep MeH

    No mention of FM Attack? Ouch

    • Joaquin Angel Garcia Ibancovic

      FM Attack lead me to Synthwave but with that being said FM Attack is more New Wave then Synthwave

  • Clément Coultas

    Feel like Carpenter Brut deserves a spot on this list, also perhaps Trevor Something.

    Also what about the obvious Kavinsky?

  • Matthew Moran

    What about Kavinsky? He was the guy who introduced synthwave to the world! :(
    And what about Lazerhawk, and Timecop1983? They’re one of my favorites.

    • http://www.luckyandlove.com April Love

      love it!

  • Andrew Dempsey

    Gunship is the tops. Debut album released in July. Maybe the best thing to come out of the 80s.

    • Brian Lorraine

      First heard him on the Carpenter album from Retro Promenade. Anyone else listened to that album?

      • Brian Lorraine

        That’s like the only album i’ve ever bought from bandcamp.

  • SalvadorZombie

    Really surprised that Dance With the Dead isn’t on this list. Or Carpenter Brut. Seems odd, but maybe that’s just me.

  • Brian Lorraine

    I demand more synthwave articles! :P

  • luigi

    italian label Sunlover Records have great Synthwave artist too!!
    http://www.sunloverrecords.com/artists/
    lot of original Italian synthwave artist here! :D

  • https://soundcloud.com/marcus-vinicius-342/tracks Marcus Rasseli

    Nice list, for sure an inspiration for my new songs. The first artist from this list that I knew was the great Mitch Murder, then I listened to Kristine nice tunes and I really liked the mood of synthwave.
    https://soundcloud.com/analog-waves-traveller

  • David Mika Egede

    I am dualiesed between being new to the genre and having listend to it all my life! waveshaper is good, Ben Prunty seriously FTL soundtrack is so great! and finally italien classics laserdance! rock on man!!

  • Brian Lorraine

    PPLz should give Teeel a shot.

  • Ilya Pukhaev
  • dgruetter

    I have just one word.. GUNSHIP!

    • http://www.toiletovhell.com/ Jimmy McNulty

      yuss, Tech Noir m/

  • http://www.synthwave.de TL80s Synthwaves

    Yeah, those are some great artists. We also love The Midnight, Absolute Valentine, Code Elektro, Tetrachrome, Dan Terminus, Compilerbau, FM-84 and many more very much! Check this awesome Synthwave artists also out and tell us if you like them! :)

  • Dennis Gruetter

    Time to add Gunship to this list

    • Dragon Slayer

      Totally agree.

  • http://www.twitch.tv/4tehpony Pony

    Kavinsky and Mitch Murder were the ones that introduced me to this synth scene. I was looking up some old good artists from the 70’s and 80’s (others than Giorgio Moroder) and I saw a hint towards resurrection of the old synthscene in form of link to Kavinsky’s youtube video. Then I found Mitch Murder, VHS Glitch, Perturbator and FM-84.. Since then I’ve been keeping an eye on Bandcamp for new stuff in weekly basis. :D

  • Jon OfThe Shred

    If you like your synthwave more on the metal and filmscore side…

    http://jonoftheshred.bandcamp.com/album/the-specter-city-slasher

  • myhologram2

    As others have already stated, Gunship deserves a spot on this list

  • Ichabod Skitzonuck

    XYLE /// if u want to go interstellar with ur synthwave, go xyle.ca

  • Vollrath Void

    LazerHawk ??

  • lyedecker

    Droid Bishop

  • Jason Cataldo

    Disappointed Carpenter Brut isn’t listed on here… LOL @ Perturbator rhyming with Masturbator

  • Chad Radkersburg

    What about cyber Nazi? Lol

  • Michael Lester

    I just stumbled upon this genre a couple weeks ago and It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for in new music. As funny as it is I found this Genre because of a Teen Titans go episode that used the song The night begins to shine. I was listening to that song on youtube which linked me to a synthwave compilation video and Now I’m hooked. This article gives me a great place to start as I begin to discover this new genre.