Some are saying that synths have had their best year since the 80s. Some say the synths never left. Regardless, it’s been a huge year for all things synthesized, with a vengeful return of 80s style disco and pop, as well as more softly spoken electronica than ever.
The synth is a staple of modern music, and every year artists find a new way to make some sweet, sweet noises with these constantly evolving machines. Today we look at what kind of evolution 2016 has brought us: these 10 songs house the tastiest synths of the year so far.
Aussie music has seen a massive outbreak of absolute synth lords, and we’re drooling all over it. Be our guest, and eat up the 10 best synth sounds of 2016.
Seekae – Turbine Blue
Turbine Blue marks the first track released by the boys from Seekae in two years, and it doesn’t disappoint. It marks a step forward for the band; with an uncharacteristic tenderness to their lyrics, Turbine Blue takes the slow paced electronica Seekae is well known for and gives it a new spin.
These lyrics are, of course, complemented by a tastefully gentle synth line. Like waves, the tide of Seekae’s simple (yet immeasurably effective) electronic work washes over you, creating a state of both nostalgia and profound melancholy.
Indian Summer – Been Here Before (ft. Eloise Cleary)
Indian Summer, as veterans of the Sydney electronic scene, rarely get due credit for their work. Having already produced some of Australia’s finest electronic music for the past three years, Been Here Before continues the streak. The featuring of Eloise Cleary’s sultry, otherworldly vocals hint at a similar formula to that popularised by Flight Facilities (a la Crave You, Two Bodies, and Claire de Lune) – with a healthy dose of trap and heavy drops.
Similar in theme to their 2015 banger Shiner with Ginger And The Ghost, Been Here Before marks a more audience friendly foray. Indian Summer prove their skill with a more coherent adherence to formula, producing a fantastic track with higher replay value.
Cut Copy – January Tape Parts 1-6
Released just last week, Cut Copy’s January Tape may be considered cheating when it comes to this list. At six tracks long this entry is a short album – however, clocking in at a grand total of 44 minutes, each track is part of a greater whole. Soothing, melodic percussion and synth overlays give the collection a feeling of wonderment.
The synths give the album an anachronistic sound, like the whole album has been imported from the 80s. Imagine the soundtrack to Blade Runner or The Terminator except, instead of creating an atmosphere of claustrophobic dread, Cut Copy creates an atmosphere of serenity. The electronic equivalent of listening to whale calls, Cut Copy seamlessly integrate the artificial with the natural.
Nick Murphy – Fear Less
Fear Less, the first song released by Nick Murphy sans the pseudonym of Chet Faker, is the second slowest track on this list – second only to the January Tape. Well, at least to start anyway. With a tantalisingly slow build up, Murphy’s husky howl soon gives way to an ambient and chaotic mess of 80s and 90s inspired synth.
Murphy’s usual blend of angst and sexuality ooze from this track, reaching a soaring crescendo before – like a candle in the breeze – suddenly extinguishing without so much as a send off.
Mansionair – Easier
Known for their easy listening electronic sound accompanied by smooth vocals, Easier dabbles more in heavy electronica than usual for Mansionair. With heavy drops accompanied by the ethereal echoes of a forlorn ballad, Easier sounds like the soundtrack to a dreamscape of soaring clouds and flashing strobe lights.
Confidence Man – Boyfriend (Repeat)
Fun, flirty, and fierce, Boyfriend (Repeat) is a fitting entry from new-on-the-block Confidence Man. Janet Planet parrots off sharp, dry, one liners with a coy and sexy delivery. Her bored demeanor is complemented by a repetitive, yet endearingly catchy, synth line – which is bound to get stuck in the head of anyone lucky enough to catch it on the radio during their morning commute.
Witty, catchy and unapologetic Boyfriend (Repeat) is a standout track of the year in any category.
Set Mo – See Right Through Me
If there were only one way to describe Set Mo’s sound, it would have to be raunchy disco. Smooth with a well paced tempo, See Right Through Me ebbs and flows with a sensuous current of electric energy.
The use of electronic percussion particularly stands out in this track; giving a more energetic twist to an otherwise sultry track.
LANKS – Holla
LANKS has slowly but surely established himself as one of Australia’s better new electronica artists, which is no small feat given how oversaturated the scene is currently. Holla, likely his finest track, truly makes him worthy of such praise.
With a gentle, swooning croon, LANKS’ vocals build up to a mournful crescendo before dropping into a trap heavy synth drop that thumps hard enough to break glass.
Safia – Over You
The Canberra natives are as well known for their A-grade production as they are for Ben Woolner’s signature voice. Over You, one of the best tracks from their stellar 2016 album Internal, establishes itself as one of Safia’s finest songs to date.
Combining elements of electronic disco, funk, and pop, the synth percussion, strings and keys rise and fall against Woolner’s noticeably developed croon.
Hayden James – Just a Lover
Synth percussion and bass dominate this track to create both an intimate listening experience, and a thumping good tune. Hayden James’ restrained vocals hint at a sense of both sensuality and vulnerability – giving more depth to the mid-tempo track through his repeated refrain.
As good to dance to as it is to chill to, Just A Lover continues James’ three year long streak of hits.