The lead single from Becky Raisman’s latest EP, Warrior, is a fiery encapsulation of the essence of self-empowerment. The track, defined by its alt-pop sensibilities, strikes as a battle cry for personal liberation. The song’s construction is a clever fusion of hyper-pop and melodic dubstep, creating a soundscape that is both anthemically charged and reminiscent of 8-bit tunes. Raisman’s bubblegum pop vocal lines serve as a conduit for listeners to plunge into a metaphorical rabbit hole, emerging empowered and steadfast.
Warrior is not just a personal triumph but an invitation for all to don their armour of empowerment and to stand their ground. Regardless of how many times the chaos of reality tries to tear the rug from under you.
Raisman’s background as a Columbia College Chicago alumna, her experiences in the Chicagoland area, and her vocal and keyboard training under notable mentors like Tamara Anderson, Jeffrey Morrow, and Randy Buescher add depth to the musical prowess which oscillates through Warrior and the subsequent singles, Live Your Life and Summer Nights.
Her journey from recording at Omnisound Studios in Nashville to her latest collaborations illustrates a dynamic and evolving career. Her dedication to her craft is further evidenced by her continuous education, such as taking music business classes through Yellowbrick at NYU’s Clive Davis Recorded Music Institute. As Raisman continues to collaborate and create, she will be a name to watch in the alt-pop universe.
After finding her fire in the City of Angels, Lana Oniel put the devil on her shoulder to release her darkly ensnaring sophomore single, hypothalamus, which reaches the pinnacle of cerebral electro-pop.
The moodily spectral release seductively defies the pop mould with a vocal delivery which finds a way to stylise histrionic eccentricity and a beat that consistently switches, never allowing you to feel complacent in the aesthetic. hypothalamus wasn’t orchestrated to entice you into comfort; Oniel efficaciously used her early years in musical theatre to confront her rapidly growing audience with an earworm which makes no bones about using its claws to sink into your synapses.
If you can imagine meeting Lady Gaga in a dark and nefarious dream soundtracked by Melleefresh and Chelsea Wolfe, you’ll get an idea of what awaits when you delve into this perfect follow-up to Oniel’s debut, Hard Just to Be.
Hypothalamus was officially released on November 2nd. Stream it on Spotify.
Radio DJs will be lining up to add LIAR to their A-lists; the hook-proliferated hit which demonstrates Robin Ashcroft’s flawless command over her dynamic vocal lines with the enliveningly immersive atmosphere of the track will resonate in your heart, soul, and rhythmic pulses.
After an intro that will pull you in as forcefully as the prelude to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ or Toxic Airborne Event’s ‘Sometime around Midnight’ the track veers into a pulsating electro-pop anthem with glistening guitars and a backbeat so strong it makes this earworm a heavyweight champion.
Those soaring with soul vocal lines and the vindicating energy of the release that will bring waves of catharsis to anyone feeling frustratedly naive for believing the fallacies that gaslighters can’t help but spin is the perfect introduction to one of Scotland’s most promising solo powerhouses.
LIAR will drip scorn onto the airwaves on November 2nd; check out the official lyric video on YouTube.
Following the success of her debut single, Beautiful Fate, the unforgettable electro-pop originator Anike took a year to hone her sound and sharpen her sonic signature before unleashing her superlatively stylised sophomore earworm, Victorious.
With as much experimentation in her sound as Warpaint, Cherry Glazerr, and Blonde Redhead fused with a sticky-sweet bubblegum pop sensibility, Victorious bridges the gap between two pop worlds with her synth-carved melodies and rhythmically arresting progressions. The track is an overpass you’ll want to revisit time after time for the feel-good factor which has all the euphoria of a guilty pleasure and all the gravitas of an artful pop-hooked Tour De Force.
Victorious was officially released on October 20; stream it on Spotify.
Reminding us that it has been 24 years since the launch of Don’t Call Me Baby by the Australian house duo Madison Avenue, Georgina White’s latest floor-filling Tour De Force, Not Your Baby, is a groove-embellished anthem that strikes hammer blows of nostalgia with every bass-drenched beat in the exhilarant Europop hit.
With a little bit of disco and tropic funk flavours to drip vibrance into the tonal palette, Not Your Baby simultaneously feeds empowerment and euphoria as Georgina White powerfully projects the liberating lyrics which are the ultimate cure to breakup scorn. It is the perfect testament to the fact that there’s nothing sweeter than emotional freedom after letting go of the hands that have held you down.
Not Your Baby, produced by John Carr, is now available to stream on Spotify.
With an 80s edge as sharp as the one carved by The Human League paired with the same spiritual zeal of Stevie Nicks, the latest single from the ever-ascending Australian pop icon, ELSKA carries enough of the nostalgic new wave feel-good factor to leave you exhilarated by the swells of retro aesthetics, but Flashbackis so much more to an ode to seemingly everyone’s new favourite era.
The juxtaposing lyrics reminisce on crying on the bathroom floor – yea, we’ve all been there – while the shimmering aesthetic of the track affectingly attests to how we all have to write our own redemption story, which also goes for survivors of sexual abuse and assault. If the sticky-sweet hooks in the stellar four-to-the-floor bop don’t convince you that dark days don’t set a blueprint for your future, just wait until the harmonies start to layer into a synthesised choir.
Prior to the release of Flashback, ELSKA performed at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, collaborated with the world-renowned Brad Hosking on a track, and became a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. She has come a seriously long way since she made her debut in 2018. We can’t wait to see her make more Olympian strides.
Flashback was officially released on October 6; stream it on Spotify.
Love it or hate it, the retro-futurism of synthwave and retrowave is here to stay, at least until a new sonic trend comes along, which is hopefully sooner rather than later because the music industry can only take so many up-and-coming artists assimilating The Midnight, Gunship, and Timecop1983.
Whether you delve into R&B, rock, pop, or electronica genres, you are bound to find artists struggling to leave the neon-soaked iconography of the 80s in the rearview mirror and determined to tap into society’s lust for nostalgia.
The 21st-Century Obsession with 80s Aesthetics
The music industry is far from the arena choked with retro-futuristic aesthetics; the wider landscape of pop culture is luminous with backlit lights; films such as the 2011 hit Drive, the Hotline Miami videogame, and TV shows such as Stranger Things can all be pinpointed as culprits in this cult-like obsession with nostalgic synth-driven soundscapes.
While neither electro-pop nor synthwave has ever been fully shunned from the mainstream, it is back with an analogue vengeance with more artists inclined to tap into the feel-good factor of nostalgic melodies, characteristic synth lines and pulsing rhythmic beats and patterns.
It is far from just the addictive hooks perpetuating the appeal of the retro genres. The desolation, dystopia, and isolation of the COVID-19 era have also been attributed to the unreckonable force of retro-futurism.
During the multiple lockdowns, which paused live music and left people confined to their homes, people found themselves finding escapism via music, and notably, there were few better escapist avenues than the ones synthwave provided. Take the success of Charlie XCX’s album, How I’m Feeling Now, and anything the Weeknd has ever created as a prime example; The Weeknd is still the most streamed artist on Spotify with 111.2 million monthly listeners; his hit single, Blinding Lights broke records after it became the most streamed single history. To date, it has garnered over 3.827 billion streams.
A Brief History of Synthwave
Synthwave started to emerge in the mid-2000s, when the French house producers, David Grellier and Kavinsky started to emanate 80s film soundtracks in their soundscapes.
Other musicians and producers who jumped on the bandwagon were keen to assimilate the likes of Tangerine Dream, New Order, and Gary Numan, while visual artists were instantly obsessed with neon lights, Ferraris, and pretty much anything to do with Miami, and John Carpenter seemed to be at the epicentre of it all until the premiere of the Ryan Gosling film, Drive, in 2011. Shortly after, the likes of Cassius, Stardust, and Daft Punk played a pivotal role in the glamourisation of 80s imagery.
Initially, synthwave represented a rejection of the 90s sonic styles; today, there is little semblance of rebellion with the mainstream appeal of it. Even Taylor Swift has hopped on the bandwagon with her 2022 album, Midnights.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Just as the rock and hip-hop genres managed to diversify themselves, we have little doubt that innovative artists will come along with the ability to make the synthwave sound a little less derivative. However, as nostalgia is much a part of the music as the 4 / 4-time signatures, which provide a kick on every beat of the bar, and the staple drum machines and synths, it’s unlikely that the evolution of the genre will ever blast into an entirely new stratosphere. But for what it is worth, Synthwave has already spawned swathes of subgenres. To name a few, they include:
Dreamwave – the downtempo sister of synthwave, which comes with higher tones and higher frequencies.
Scifiwave – an iteration of synthwave with a heavier emphasis on orchestral and cinematic synthetics.
Vaporwave – a more satirical and ambient exploration of 80s and 90s stylings, which is often confused with synthwave.
Sovietwave – surreally everything that it says on the tin; soundscapes which euphonically encompass the fall of the Soviet Union.
Darkwave – a darker and more gothic approach to synth wave; a genre defined by the sounds of Carpenter Brut and Perturbator.
When we asked AI to predict the future of the genre, it had even bigger ideas, envisioning the genre reaching even bigger heights with augmented and virtual reality immersive experiences for music fans, hologram-littered visual shows and entire festivals dedicated to synthwave artists.
Time will only tell if the genre can sustain its legacy, but as technology evolves, there is plenty of expectation that synthwave will follow suit. Although, after the excessive appropriation of the 80s sound, there is every chance that a new revivalist era will begin.
The dance-pop icon Riley Rex asserted her claim to the LA pop crown with her infectiously flawless Halloween hit, The Shadowy Place. It may just be the biggest Halloween hit since Kernkraft 400 delivered Zombie Nation in 1999. It at least stands up to the debauched decadence in Emerge by Fischerspooner while incorporating the contemporary magnetism of Dua Lipa, Ava Max, and Charli XCX.
By contrasting the dark lyrical themes with the hypersonic textures and upbeat pace in the polished production, Rex extended euphoria to those who need it most with The Shadowy Place, which breaks EDM pop boundaries in definitively sensuous style.
The single, which was written while she was enrolled on a course with One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, is a narration of the escapist ideation which consumes you when you’re stuck in a pit of anxiety and depression. The bass-driven electro-pop hit may not have what it takes to cure mental illness, but you couldn’t ask for a more potent sonic serotonin source.
The Shadowy Place hit the airwaves on October 6; stream it on SoundCloud.
Thankfully, the title of Jay Hofman’s latest single, I Can’t Sing, isn’t a disclaimer for the dire vocal performance that will defile your ears as soon as you hit play. Instead, the self-deprecatingly sweet funked-up indie electro-pop hit shares a dilemma that every non-muso diehard romantic will have been stung by, the compulsion to write and sing a love song despite a discernible lack of musical talent.
Maybe ironically, maybe entirely purposefully, the Polish singer-songwriter who is currently residing in the UK crafted the kind of love song that everyone who is lucky enough to be head over heels will want to put on a playlist for the objects of their desire. By switching between rap-style spoken word verses and auto-tuned harmonies in the chorus, even if there was weight to the claim that Hofman can’t sing, it would never have soured the soundscape that is as electrifying as a Daft Punk hit.
I Can’t Sing debuted on September 8th; fall in love with it via Spotify.
For his latest single, Reach You, the independent Czech music producer, DJ, and songwriter Goshok teamed up with Otto Palmborg to reach the pinnacle of electronica fervour.
Ironically, we couldn’t get his last single, On My Mind, off ours; if Reach You is anything to go by, his talents in infusing his momentous Kygo-inspired tracks with visceral emotions have become superlatively honed. Once you hit play, you’ll be immersed in a bitter-sweet hit that errs on the side of affectionate rapture. If you know how it feels to be caught in the middle of a relationship that forces you to explore the pleasure-pain parallel, the resonance in Reach You will be phenomenal.
By pulling in elements from across the EDM spectrum to enliven his tropical house edge and augment his pop hooks until they’re ensnaringly sharp, Goshok created a hit that could facilitate his dream to become the first producer from Czechia to feature on the line-ups at Tomorrowland, Coachella, and Balaton Sound.
Reach You hit the airwaves on August 25; stream it on Spotify.