January 1, 2021 — 2020 was a rough year for many people, but it also came with a lot to be grateful for. While did not get to go to as many concerts as we wanted, we did have more time to discover new music. On top of finding new ways to enjoy live shows. Some people found themselves with more time to start a hobby, or create that YouTube channel they always wanted to make.
Others saw a great year for retrowave music in both videogames and television; some of the artists we work with also put out fantastic music this year. Today seems like a great day to reflect on some of our favorite retrowave tracks that came out this year and to look forward to the great year 2021 will be.
1. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – Gunship
A synth-heavy version of a Beatles song does not immediately sound like it would be a hit, but this is one of the best retrowave songs of 2020. Gunship did everything right with this song by keeping the lyrics the same, and not doing anything extreme with the vocals. Instead, they changed the composition to add more synth and base, creating a refreshing remix of a classic song.
2. ‘All My Dreams’ – Roxi Drive
Roxi Drive is incredibly talented, and she has had a busy 2020 despite Covid sidelining her live gigs. Roxi has found a great niche, somehow transporting pure ‘80s sound to the 2020s, and making it sound contemporary. ‘All My Dreams’ is a perfect example of her unique sound. If you are into that then make sure you listen to her entire new Electric Heart album.
3. ‘Monsters’ – The Midnight
The Midnight has emerged as one of the most popular retrowave groups recently. It is because of songs like this that fuse different musical styles into one beautiful piece that is anchored in synth. The whole album — which is conveniently titled after our favorite single — is a magnificent work. The intro track titled ‘1991’ sets the mood with a dial-up internet clip, and then continues to hit you with track after track of 90s-inspired tunes.
4. ‘Back to the Start’ – Morgan Willis
Morgan Willis’ start of the year album Dreamer is full of upbeat melodies, including the infectious ‘Back to the Start.’ It is clear that — like most of us — Willis could not have predicted the turn that 2020 would take. That said, with a fresh year ahead of us, it is time to revisit this pop-inspired synth album.
5. ‘Terminator 1984 Theme’ – Perfect Nothing
If you are a fan of the Terminator series, you will love what Perfect Nothing did with the theme song. This song has workout playlist written all over it; making you want to dive into Perfect Nothing’s catalog to see what else they have hiding in there.
6. ‘You Are My Obsession’ – Trevor Something
You know you are in for a delicious retrowave treat from the first note, and it just gets sweeter from there. This is the kind of song that reminds you of the sweaty dance floors that a lot of us miss, and the potentially sultry encounters you have there. This track would work equally well on a workout mix. Though, no matter when you listen to it, there is no doubt it will get you excited when we can all be shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor again.
7. ‘The Dead Walk’ – John Carpenter
Who knew that John Carpenter was such a gifted musical artist; it turns out he has been producing music for as long as he has been making movies. Most of the music from his most famous works, like the theme of Halloween, was written by Carpenter. The multi-talented Carpenter promises a new album in 2021, but he teased us all with this pulse-pounding track he released in December.
8. ‘Forget the Past’ – Daniel Deluxe
This was a fantastic year for retrowave in videogames, and one of the standouts was Ghostrunner. The game is a lot of fun, though it would not be nearly as excellent if it were not for the original retrowave soundtrack. This is the kind of album that you could listen to from beginning to end without skipping a track. However, if you had to pick just one, ‘Forget the Past’ should be it.
9. ‘After Dark’ – Essenger
This song embodies the whole aesthetic of retrowave with a more contemporary sound, but is still rooted in the synthesizer hums. Through sound, it paints a picture of the neon lights that lit the dark city streets in the grittiest of 80s movies. It is not expected for retrowave to tell a story through lyrics — but this song does — making it a great gateway synth song to introduce to your friends.
10. ‘Summer Heat’ – SelloRekt/LA Dreams
It may be physically impossible to listen to this song without a smile on your face. It calls back to the bubblegum pop of the 80s with a bouncing melody, and plenty of electric guitar and synth to go around. Listening to this tune gives you images of cheesy 80s comedy montages and will brighten your spirits. While reminding you that there is still a lot of fun to be had in this world.
Looking Toward the Future
It is no secret that most of us would like to leave 2020 in the past, but there was ultimately a lot of good that came out of this year. Retrowave took a huge step forward in pop culture with games like Black Future ’88, Ghostrunner, and Cyberpunk 2077 featuring the genre front and center. Although the latter has had a little misstep going into the new year, with a slew of bugs and lack of polish.
As we welcome in 2021, it promises to be an even better year for our favorite genre. Hopefully, we will see live shows return at some point in the year, and new media to continue to license retrowave music in fun and inventive ways. As we have learned this year, we cannot predict the future, but cheers to the thought of a fresh new year ripe with possibilities!