#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's soul funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 43rd episode, Robert (aka Mr Big Happy) is sharing a selection of 5 rare Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. John Simmons – “Ain't Nothing Like The Love” (1981) 02. Cho-Ko - "Tried & Cried"” (1982) 03. Memphis - "Inside My Love" (1982) 04. Poncho C. Saint Fingers - "When I Come Knocking" (198x) 05. Mary & Kirkland's - "I Never Felt This Way" (1984) Follow Mr Big Happy: https://www.instagram.com/mr.bighappy/ Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/albin_boogi... ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
► Order now: https://primesourcemag.com/label
#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's soul funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 42nd episode, Albin is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Tierra – “Sonya” (1983) 02. Eddie Henderson -Prance On” (1978) 03. Take 3 - "Tonight's The Night" (1983) 04. Caviar - "Never Stop Loving You" (1982) 05. Mick Mullane - "Completely" (1988) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/albin_boogi... ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#80smusic #funky #recordcollection #discofunk Crate Diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's Soul Funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 41st episode, Solveig (Paris) is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Midway– “Set It Out” (1984) 02. Opal - "Ain't No Way" (1983) 03. Satin - "City Boys" (1983) 04. Barbara Norris "Heavy Hitter" (1981) 05. Chaka Khan - "What You Did" (1980) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marwan_boogie80 ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate Diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's Soul Funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 40th episode, Rice Krispie (Boogie80 co-founder) is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Komiko – “Feel Alright” (1982) 02. Jimmy Ross - "First True Love Affair” / "Chocolate Ice" (1981) 03. MFSB - "Mysteries of The World" (1980) 04. Coffee "Casanova" (1980) 05. Luther Vandross - "She's So Good To Me" (1985) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marwan_boogie80 ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate Diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's Soul Funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 39th episode, Marwan (Boogie80 co-founder) is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Exodus – “I'm The One For You” (198?) 02. Morissey Mullen - "Come And Get Me” (1982) 03. Visions - "Love Calls" (1988) 04. Kristal "Fallin'" / "Eté Super" (1983) 05. Ren Woods - "Get It Right" (1982) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marwan_boogie80 ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's soul funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 38th episode, DJ Estephe (Geneva, CH) is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Redd Hott – “Ecstasy” (1982) 02. Hipnotic -"Are You Lonely” (1983) 03. Kinky Foxx - "So Different" (1983) 04. Steven & Sterling "Can I Be With You Tonight" / "Don't Stop" (1982) 05. McCrarys - "Love On A Summer Night" (1981) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/albin_boogi... ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#80smusic #funky #soul #recordcollection Crate diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's soul funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 37th episode, Albin is sharing a selection of 5 Soul Funk records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Supa Rap feat T.C. Anderson – “Bills” (1983) 02. OBryan -"Soft Touch” (1983) 03. 10dB - "I Burn For You" (1987) 04. Dale Van Horn "The Entertainer" / "That's Summertime To Me" (1981) 05. Alec Mansion - "Ou-Es-Tu" (1983) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/albin_boogie80 ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
#Japanfunk #funky #recordcollection #discofunk Crate diggers is a series entirely dedicated to 80's soul funk lovers in which the Boogie80 crew as well as selected guests (DJs and vinyl collectors) will be reviewing records from their personal collection in various genres including Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco, Jazz Funk/Fusion & Modern Funk. In this 36th episode, Walla P (Voyage Funktastique/ PrimeSource Mag) is sharing a selection of 5 Japanese records from his personal vinyl collection. Records presented: 01. Hiroshi Satoh – “Say Goodbye” / "Shiny Lady" (1985) 02. First Light (Makoto Matsushita) - "Love Was Really Gone" (1981) 03. Hitomi Tohyama - "Love Competition" (1983) 04. Masaki Ueda - "Just Dance The Night" (1983) 05. Air Suspension Band - "Seaside In The Twilight" (1982, 2020) ► Follow us: ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boogie80com ► Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/albin_boogie80 ► Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/boogie80-com ► Bandcamp: https://avantgarderecords.bandcamp.com
Well if you’re reading this – you survived 2020.
Congratulations. 2021 is finally here and it’s gonna be a circus.
Now in my opinion, movie theaters are “done” indefinitely until further notice and streaming will be the future. I understand Hollyweird doesn’t see it this way… because, they(studio execs, producers and some directors and actors) are overfed pigs who are detached from normal life and the perspectives of average people. So, let the piggy’s whine, bitch and moan.
Here is the small list of Retro themed films that are worth of being on a years end list from Me.
In no particular order.
Color Out of Space:
The Richard Stanley adaptation to a story by the infamous and visionary H.P.Lovecraft. Color Out of Space is a surreal and unnerving horror film that is as far away and so much better than the sludge and shit that big studios and more specifically Blumhouse has produced in years. A well made and beautifully photographed film that brings you back to the days of creepy/disturbing horror rather than the, shoved down your throat, hot-topic, horror junk food and jump scares of commercial cinema (Ha! remember movie theaters? seems like a long time ago). Nic Cage churns out an over the top performance that is second, in recent years, to his performance in MANDY .. This is Richard Stanley’s coming out party and a wonderful return to form for the director after walking away from the industry after Hollyweird sabotaged and mutilated his adaptation to The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Wolf of Snow Hollow:
Directed by and starring Jim Cummings. It also stars Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, and Jimmy Tatro, as well as Robert Forster in his final film role. A fresh werewolf story set in a small town in Utah terrorized by one of these supernatural creatures. A funny and entertaining film and the final performance by Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Delta Force).
Are you noticing a trend here? Yes. I was quarantined a lot during Covid and lucky for me I had 5G and Netflix. Dorohedoro was something I discovered on instagram, if you must know. A short clip of the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen. If it weren’t for the slight computer animations on illustrations, I would’ve thought this was an anime from a decade ago that I somehow missed on my radar.
Based on a manga by Q Hayashida – this a genreblending masterpiece of cyberpunk, fantasy, body-horror, comedy and visceral action. If you like gyoza, hot blondes, assertive women with muscles, lizards, wizards, witches, knives, alternate dimensions and bizarre shit, YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS.
Altered Carbon : Resleeved:
Cyberpunk 2077 may or may not have left a bad taste in your usb ports but, CYBERPUNK is back.
Altered Carbon was a popular NETFLIX series that had a strong first season and a polarizing second season ultimately leading to the series cancellation by streaming site. Sad, I know. But, they did drop an anime / prequel in 2020 that was a monster of cg-anime. So friggin good. Everything is here, corporate crime bosses, cybernetic thugs, neon future landscapes and questions of identity and tradition. Resleeved is still on Netflix and worth your attention.
. Da 5 Bloods:
Spike Lee managed to squeeze something interesting here. A poignant depiction of the Vietnam experience from a point of view that isn’t often seen on the screen. Carried by a wonderful ensemble cast with a stand out and award worthy performance by Delroy Lindo. I was not a fan of the previous couple of films by Lee. But, Bloods was such a nice and welcomed effort by its production and all involved.
Still available of Netflix.
. Sonic the Hedgehog:
I honestly didn’t want to watch this. I avoided it at all costs. I told people not to bring it up in conversation because, I didn’t care enough. However, I was in my local FRY’s and I saw it was on sale in the DVD shelf and said, “Fuck it” and purchased it for my girlfriend.
Boy was I surprised. I did not expect to like this at all. I actually liked it. The big grumpy old bastard in me liked this. The effects were good but, the humor and story was good enough to really entertain me. Jim Carrey is awesome in this. It is one of those movies that kids can enjoy along side adults during a family night in front of the television. I hope there is a sequel and the ending of this film sure as shit leaves the door open for a part 2; and when that film premiers online or for streaming, I’m there to watch it.
Once again – there will be some errors in the paragraphs above. And once -again IDGAF, I’ll correct what I can. It’s four in the morning in Covid country.
Stay SAFE. Stay Secored. Save your money. If you got that cheap ass six hundred dollars from the government – bury it. Stay cool and keeep your fingers on that REWIND BUTTON.
SamHaiNe presents: Hainesville
“Natural City” is now playing and still available.
For fans of Joe Frank Radio, Charles Bukowski, Jim Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Jim Carroll, Edward Bunker, Roc Marciano, KA, Gil Scott Heron, Ed Brubaker, Miguel Pinero, Vaporwave, Neo-noir, 90’s hiphop, nostalgia and Trip-hop.
► Pre-order now at: https://boogie80.com/avant-garde-records/ Digital available on Bandcamp on January 15th. Straight from the vaults of Brian Morgan, a limited 7 inch vinyl edition featuring 2 unreleased songs from the 80’s. On side A , the track “You’re Gonna Love Me” was slated for mega producer Kashif with Whitney Houston as the duet partner. Sadly, this song never made it on the album because it was not finished in time. The flip side “Enchanting” was also made for Kashif. “While I was working on his Condition Of The Heart album, we didn’t finish this song in time to include it on the album.” recalls Brian Morgan These 2 demo songs were completely remixed by French Boogie master Nickee B.
Justice League Dark (DC Comics)
If you read reviews of Justice League Dark, and in particular those by reviewers who haven’t been following the magic-themed team-up from DC, you’ll read about people being surprised or impressed by what may be an otherwise lower profile title. The truth is that there may not be a more consistently enjoyable comic from the publisher, with very little fluff and filler throughout 2020. While the book may have most recently been tied up in the Endless Winter event, it served that story nicely and seems primed to take readers into interesting arcs in 2021.
A secret of mine is that as I get older I find that I prefer fully collected graphic novels to single issue floppies. With COVID-19 making traveling to my local comic shop equal parts time consuming and anxiety inducing, I spent more attention than usual to the graphic novel scene, and it definitely paid off. Fantagraphics has some really great books with really unique art styles. Vision creator Julia Gfrörer first landed on my radar with the incredible 2016 book Laid Waste, and Vision shows her unique style and distinctly gothic voice on full display. This is the kind of comic that non-comic fans would love, because more than anything else it feels different.
Killadephia (Image Comics)
It’s the 90’s again! Not really. We’re more of an 80’s crowd here at NewRetroWave, but it’s hard not to see the Vertigo-esque streak in several books from all kinds of different publishers in the past year. Killadelphia is one such book. With writer Rodney Barnes and artist Jason Shawn Alexander at both of their peaks, this comic is a dark and sometimes nightmarish look at vampires in the city of brotherly love. And while that description is very elevator-pitch high concept, the story itself is anything but a novelty. It’s a unique and gripping comic.
Don’t Go Without Me (Shortbox)
Let it be known that there are no better book covers in all of 2020, or possibly even the last half decade, than Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s breathtaking cover of Don’t Go Without Me. I had never read any of her previous work and knew nothing of the book but purchased it immediately upon seeing it, and I was not disappointed. While different from the other books here in that this is an anthology and not a serialized or complete story, and it has some work that actually appeared initially a few years ago (albeit, in slightly different form). Don’t Go Without Me is a great book with a singularly fantastic visual style.
Immortal Hulk (Marvel Comics)
Fun fact time: I have never liked The Hulk. Perhaps even more so than some other superheroes I have a disdain for, Hulk stories always bored me. Immortal Hulk was what I always needed. This is not a superhero story in the way that you might initially believe. With an art style that verges on body horror at times, Immortal Hulk grounds everything to the ultra-personal, to create a comic that is often gut wrenching and distressing, but always great. Writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett delivered in 2020 with this series.
The Department of Truth (Image Comics)
The Department of Truth rests on a simple premise: what if every conspiracy theory was true? This is not a new idea, as I can think of at least three comics off the top of my head that start or go through the same or similar premise. What sets this comic apart is just how good James Tynion IV is at telling this story. This comic premiered in September of this year and had easily the best debut issue of a comic in all of 2020. With strong art from Martin Simmonds accompanying the great writing, I cannot wait to follow this story through 2021.
X-Men (Marvel Comics)
The absolute state of X-Men in 2020 compared to, like, three years ago is astounding. Jonathan Hickman has not only revitalized so many of the beloved characters from the X-line (it’s finally nice to be a Cyclops fan), but has revitalized the line itself. Hickman’s ability to make the mutants of the 616 feel like they live in a living, breathing world can’t be overstated. X of Swords was, personally, a little hit or miss for me, but it’s hard to argue against the high points of a series that already demands high expectations.
Excellence (Image Comics)
It’s a cliche at this point to say that Excellence lives up to its namesake in some capacity when talking about the critically acclaimed fantasy story from writer Brandon Thomas and artists Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez. But how can you blame such reviewers? The book is called Excellence and it has been one of the best books every week that it came out since it debuted in 2019. While I love and appreciate this book as a comic, there are no other books that have come out this year that I have read and thought “Make this an animated series or a movie or something right now” quite as much as Excellence.
John Contantine: Hellblazer (DC Comics)
I’ve got to level with you. I didn’t read any of this series until I saw some friends upset about its premature ending from DC, one which by all accounts the story was able to pull off anyways. I didn’t read through any other entire series this quickly in 2020. John Constantine: Hellblazer was a downright special book from Simon Spurrier and a changing cast of artists. While it had spectacle and truly stand-out artwork, this comic truly excelled at making the titular character feel more alive than he has in years.
The Dollhouse Family (DC Comics)
Expectations were high for The Dollhouse Family, as it had a strong creative team and would be the first of Joe Hill’s DC Comics imprint Hill House. It feels kind of surreal that this is a book put out by DC Comics. Not because of the quality, while this was my favorite book of the year you can clearly see I was a fan of what DC brought to 2020, but rather because it feels like the first time I found out that DC owned Vertigo. It just feels so different from what someone would expect from a comic, let alone a mainstream comic. It’s spooky and full of simultaneously heart and venom, and an easy recommendation for anybody.
Fixing Me With Love by Sunglasses Kid & Primo the Alien
One of perhaps the most exciting trends in synthwave these past few years has been a greater emphasis on rhythmic elements and an almost optimistic tendency from the vocalists in the scene. “Fixing Me With Love” has both of these in full force in a killer track with one of the best choruses of the year hands down. When the drums drop out and Primo’s voice shares the spotlight with the chiming melodies from Sunglasses Kid the song lures you in further before everything in the song hits even harder.
Overload (ft. Tokyo Rose) by Tonebox
On January 1, 2020, the grim music video for Overload by Tonebox featuring the always impressive Tokyo Rose debuted on NRW’s channel. Little did we know that bloodbath video would tonally be a match for the year the world seems to have been collectively having. Video aside, the song is a moody and atmospheric piece which builds a foreboding atmosphere from beginning to end and doesn’t sound like it would be out of place on some acid house alternate universe version of Akuma.
Synthian (ft. LAU) by NINA
The titular track from NINA’s album from this past June shows why the German singer is and has been such a sought after vocal commodity in the retrowave scene. This time paired with a more laid back and more hip-hop inspired beat for much of the song, everything here elicits a dreamy energy that makes it something truly special.
A New Quest (Droid Bishop Remix) by Magic Sword
I’m not sure how fair it is to include a remix on a collaborations list, but come on, it’s Magic Sword, one of the most phenomenally consistent acts in the scene. And who is remixing? Only Droid Bishop, another one of the most accomplished artists in the scene, and one who released a serious AOTY contender this past September. The “A New Quest” remix fuses the ethereal with the triumphant, creating the rare and odd feeling of a round of applause greeting you in a liminal space.
Work It Out by Team Sweatwave
As a species, we are far, far too cruel to one another to have deserved something as great and incredibly fun as the Team Sweatwave album from May 2020. You can argue that this is more of a supergroup than a collaboration, but let’s not get pedantic about it, nerd. Polemic Heart’s vocals on “Work It Out” are one of the most unique and hook-laden vocals of the year, unquestionably. In fact, the synth work and guitar work by the collaborative team of Turbo Knight, YORU, Dimi Kaye, Gryff, and Polemic Heart is really something magical. It’s no surprise that some of these artists are going to show up later in this list.
Funk All Night Long (ft. Yasmina) by Zyodara
Remember what I said earlier about the heightened focus on funk and rhythmic expression in the scene? “Funk All Night Long” is what you get if you push that to a Solid Gold extreme. There’s groovy syncopation throughout the track, and impeccable control of space, and a restrained and soothing vocal performance that pulls listeners through the nearly 4 minute funky romantic bop.
Let’s Get Wild (ft. Dimi Kaye) by Yoru & Turbo Knight & Syst3m Glitch
Hello Yoru, Turbo Knight, and Dimi Kaye! It’s been a while (in a very dude-from-Staind voice)! Some of the folks from earlier in this list are joined by the excellent Syst3m Glitch and have crafted perhaps the most montage-worthy song from the scene this year. It has a vocal performance that’s unique and alternates between a standard delivery of catchy hooks and the occasional flair for the dramatic. The energy here is always at a high, and we’re all luckier because of it.
Sunset Strip by Veeshy & Phonic Youth
I’m going to level with you. I wasn’t really following Veeshy or Phonic Youth. When I first heard “Sunset Strip” about a month ago that changed. This song is dreamy in a way that most synthwave tracks aspire to, with a masterful control of automated effects and layering throughout. In a year that was notably strong with vocal-based tracks, “Sunset Strip” is still an absolute standout.
Reverse by Primo the Alien & Gryff
Sometimes I’ll listen to an artist who makes only instrumentals and fantasy cast vocalists for the artist. I almost always imagine Gryff, and with the quality of the tracks they’ve released this year, it’s easy to want Primo the Alien to be the voice on tracks as well. You can only imagine the enthusiasm with which I smashed that play button in August when “Reverse” came out, a collaboration between two of the best that the scene has to offer. The fact that the two powerhouses to share the spotlight on the track and never allow it to feel cluttered, and even make space for a crooning saxophone solo that will have you making that face that looks like you smelled something bad when you really just heard a saxophone lick that friggin’ rips. Urgh. Just seriously listen to this song if you haven’t yet.
Her Broken Smile (ft. Tessa Hedrick) by DEADLIFE
I like optimism in my synthwave. I think I’ve been pretty clear with that particular preference in this list. But do you want to know something I like even more? When an artist completely seems to throw out convention. “Her Broken Smile” has moments of hyperpop and glitch and industrial music sprinkled throughout, and it’s anchored by an absolutely showstopping vocal performance. It has just enough weird elements sonically and enough hooks that when it starts to veer into unconventional composition territory, you are completely hooked and need more. The subtleties and maximalism of the song makes it feel like music for the edge of the abyss. And what could be more appropriate for 2020. Hope you don’t disappear.
Synth-fam, it’s that time of year. The end of 2020 is nigh. We’re leaving it behind on a high note and looking back on the community we’ve built together. We all love our die-hard classics, our fan favorites, and trustworthy Go-To’s that we set on repeat. However, it’s time to usher in a new era of talent that resides among us and has been hiding in the shadows. Allow me to introduce you to your new addictions in their well-deserved moment of glory as Top 2020 Newcomers of Synthwave and BEYOND!
It’s both an honor and a privilege to be able to showcase these incredible gems that I’ve stumbled across! I tripped and fell into their world and once these tracks hit my ears, I knew that I had to share them with you!
After a rough year filled with challenges and obstacles, we’re celebrating those who took 2020’s que to create more than we take for granted. A series of artists who have hit the ground running and decided to finally release their very first EPs and Albums for the masses to enjoy!
I’ll be sharing two tracks from each artist to highlight for your audiophilic pleasure.
I’ll even link them for you! All you have to do is listen and vibe.
Without further delay – let’s discover what lies ahead of the curve of Synthwave’s rising progression.
[Setting: Moscow, Russia]
Microsha ’89s sound is a recipe for recognition. With synthy smooth melodies, dazzling arpeggios, and nostalgic possession taking over their percussion, I’m as pleased as a peach that they’re part of the scene. They began with a concept EP called Soviet Union and from there I was hooked. Most artist’s first EPs do not fully encompass their talent. More often than not – it’s likely not very good. This is the entire opposite of that. This is gold. My top two tracks are from their latest release, Rain, which embodies their instrumental genius and corners us into a place where addiction is the only escape.
What grabs hold of me is the richness of the evocative electric guitar. The fluidity of the synth beckons us to listen closely before the percussion kicks in – demanding our attention to dial in. The track speeds up mildly but keeps us at a standstill while all else is moving in perfect synchronicity. It doesn’t force us to move or dance just yet, it’s energy comes from the moment we’re in right now. The groove comes naturally, and before you know it you’re finally swaying and nodding your head to the beat.
When I’m listening to this track, I’m reminded of summer showers, despite the fact that it’s winter right now. You can visualize the angelic rays as the clouds begin to part. The glimmer of raindrops fall and hit the pavement to the beat. The synth guides us towards the ascension of the bridge, and the warmth of the chords against our ears is instilling the memory of those rainy days of Summer. The melody is one we won’t be able to forget, even after the song ends. As the thunder claps alongside the reverb of a cheerful chorus, it reminds us to keep smiling through the worst days. Better days are on the horizon if you just keep listening to the music.
[Setting: Istanbul, Turkey]
Out of the depths of the dark synth world, a new ruler ascends. One that doesn’t need your typical horror movie concepts, ritualized figures of what we define as “evil”. Such as a random Baphomet or symbol of Satanism. Not even your basic zombie raid soundtrack has anything on this! The “dark” theme is much more real, and much closer than you realize. Silicon Empire ushers in the subtlety of suspense, the arch of a technological takeover, and the guttural grunge of the gaping void in our minds. A modern industrial age is among us – and it’s heard in the synthetic coils of sound, the distorted elements of mind-altering audio effects, the pitch of a short circuit, and the depths of a guitar’s serenade. What began as a primarily ambient album called Umut, has now evolved into a complementary soundtrack to your digital dystopia: A Journey in the Network.
When I first heard this track, it brought upon an unnerving sense of disarray. Something lurking but unseen. The way the keys are they’re played on the synth instills an unfulfilled desire to uncover the unknown torture. It is heard in the inescapable edging of emotion of tantalizing tunes. You want to keep listening, don’t you? The stale air of decay is matched with the bass and the transition of the melody. There is a chime leading you closer to that alternate state of being. Eventually, we’re in the underbelly of soundwaves, enraptured by the web of strings and glitchy effects. This is what it sounds like to live in a technologically dominated atmosphere.
I get it. You want something harder. Something faster. Well, imbibe in this track with me. Let the bass shake you to your core. In the wake of this bodiless, unseen entity is the chaos that ensues internally. The fragments are within the fast-paced arpeggio, and the pitch change glitches into our comfort zone. What was once the stillness of an echo, is now awakened by the reverberating roar of synth. We move down-tempo into the endless expanse of our ego, as it engages with the enticing embrace of strings and leaves us to lie in our very own existential abyss.
[Setting: Caracas, Venezuela]
We live in a world of synthwave where we are tired of hearing the same ol’ pattern, bridge, and chorus. We’re tired of facing the problem that synthwave oftentimes is guilty of. We crave that which sets us apart from traditional genres. In comes Otrebor, a truthfully enigmatic beacon of what is both old and new. Entrance yourselves with a fresh sound, where each element is a reflection of the afterthought of musical focus. This is an artist that suppresses all that we consider vital within this niche of music. You don’t have to be an 80’s kid, you don’t have to have listened to every 80’s album ever released, and you don’t have to conform to what people tell you are the foundations of building the right sound with a synth to emulate “the good ol’ days.” So get used to it, and listen to what’s coming next without being afraid of the future generation. It’s killer, and it belongs on your playlist. I’m showcasing his album Loneliness and SOSIEGO for this segment.
Otrebor calls himself an “Emotional Electronic” artist. Think of the emotions you feel when you’re beckoned to dance, feel the tingling sensation crawl up your spine, and let go. A rhymic rise enters the confines of your eardrums, and with it is an episodic version of an emotional sense within a distinct memory. The static noise fry introduces the welcomed repetition of electronic chords, and the plummet of the chorus causes it to go back from where we first started.
For those that want something with teeth, I welcome you to listen along. The start of the track is all attitude with an electronic entrance of mood-inducing keys. The trilling of chimes gets us past the rise, and a kick-drum strikes first into a KO of powerful percussion. Do you hear that? Is that…nostalgia in another form? It isn’t basic, predictable, or repetitive. It is intertwined with the modern enigma of what the future holds for the genre. Dare I say it, it’s actually good and doesn’t take me back in time, it takes me to the right here and now in a good way. To avoid or refuse this next level vibe that is filling your ears is just a resistance of rhymic evolution.
4) Nikita Scion
[Setting: Hamburg, Germany]
The rapture of new artists continues, and Nikita Scion is making their mark on this list. I only have to tell you once, that this artist is a legend in the making. If you enjoy aggressive arpeggios, the roar of an electric guitar, and synthy, elaborate electronic melodies – then keep an eye on their progress. Nikita Scion entered the scene with a banger – Spectre Unleashed – and has since released one hit after another. Listen for yourself, and let us know what you think as you travel to unexpected territories within your concept of musical reality.
The opener for this track glides into a guitar riff, easing us into a dazzling array of keys. I can’t help but feel energetically in sync with the way this track was arranged. Nothing feels repetitive, and each bridge and arch leads me to something new and exciting. The way the percussion integrates with the charismatic chords sends thrills and shivers throughout my body and dancing is the only response I can manage.
At the start, I am immediately transported into Castlevania and I have no idea why. It might not have anything to do with what inspired this track, but it does remind me of Symphony of the Night specifically. In any case, that’s not a bad thing at all, and as we exchange vibes from nostalgic video games to vicious vibratos, I’m intrigued nonetheless. The percussion wakes me up just as the saxophone solo kicks in. Seriously, the transitions just lift another layer of the veil behind Nikita Scion’s talent. I never want to part ways with it. Let me just say “You’re Welcome” in advance, because I know I just inflicted your latest obsession upon you with 100% certainty that you’ll enjoy it.
5) STATIC ANGEL
[Setting: Somewhere in the, UK]
There is more left to come and the volume on your end needs to be turned up to the max for a sensational experience to shake the walls of your perspective. STATIC ANGEL is next on our list and they’re breaking the mold. Imagine if Synthwave and Dubstep had a baby and named it Synthstep, but it lives a double life as a Chilltrap Queen. This amalgamation of style, talent, and experimental electro has my knees buckling for more.
Things start off calm enough with a distorted rise, an eclectic arpeggio, and a trap-like kick drum. It’s all over once the bass takes over, and with all the elements combined, alongside a female voice, there’s no turning back. With each and every chime, chord, and key, I’m left dumbfounded at this familiar yet unfamiliar territory of tasteful rhythms. The emotion of the vocalized harmony entangles me into a fit of yearning. I want more of this. Much more.
Distorted Noise fry. Kick. Snap. Vocals. Que that shattering bass that makes me quiver just right, and it’s a party. I’m obliged to obliterate my eardrums with this track repeatedly. Once the bridge arrives, the hum of the reverb meets the myriad of vocalized echoes. Then, we’re snapped back to attention thanks to that assertive clap. The delicate effects in conjunction with the grungey distortion are wrapped up and delivered to you into the voice of an angel. A Static Angel.
[Setting: Cincinnati, OH]
I invited some friends to the party, and while we’ve covered dark synth, synthwave, and some elements of things new and different, I may as well give the vaporwave scene some new vibes to lounge to! Introducing NØVMBR, the hottest sound to hit the airways since HOME disappeared. (Seriously, where is that guy?) Anyway, this next arrangement of sounds will astound and delight you with their dissonant chords, warbling midi-effects, and nostalgic ambiance. It’s enough to make me miss being a mallrat.
Allow the dazzling arpeggio to carry you up-tempo as the BPM hastens. Dancing along your mind are colorful chords trailing into the fry of noise. This is what obsessions are made of. We get that classic synth effect we hold so dear in the vaporwave scene, and the drum pads take us beyond reach. With every transition, there is something new to hear, a new detail to uncover. Leave no form of sound ignored. The horns announce their entrance and the rise begins to set a new stage. Finally, the chime of a new melody starts and ends just before we meet that luring arpeggio. Like an old friend, you miss just before they’ve gone.
Dark by Six feat. Sorcery
The next track to compliment your playlist is effortlessly mood-enhancing. I can see those SimpsonWave YouTuber’s adopting this as the newest addition to their strange yet soothing aesthetic. I’m enamored with the way this track progresses from familiarity to a spin in its own direction. The altering pitches from one segment to the next is like pulling back the curtain to a whole new sound. There are nuances to what you’ve heard before, but they stand out in the details mixed into each track.
7) Flight 328
[Setting: Chicago, IL]
I’m going to say it out loud and proud – I’m shamelessly sharing this artist as Synthwave’s next vocal sensation. You’d think this Synth duo arrived on the scene in a time machine. With vocals as their backbone, Austin Deadman and Tara Cruz deliver a time capsule of sounds that most artists wish they could replicate. I’d closely define their sound as synthpop meets 80s movie ballads, but with room to explore. Seriously, I get chills listening to Austin Deadman and Tara Cruz belt out and serenade from track to track. Not only is it rich with what I call “remastered-nostalgia”, but it has that classic cadence we remember from the 80s greatest hits era. Either way, raise the volume, and familiarize yourself with the newest faces among the crowd of vocalists with instrumental talent, Flight 328.
Don’t Want to Change Your Mind (FM-84 Cover)
It’s an aching, heart tangling sensation with Austin’s voice elevating this cover. Ollie Wride would dig this, even if it’s his lyricized co-creation with FM-84, with a smile on his face, and a tear in his eye. Nothing could have made this track better, and yet, I find myself at a standstill. Not in the way of wondering which is better than the other, but the fact that there are new elements to highlight about what made it incredible from the start. Along with an acoustic adoration, this newly packaged model is one that I couldn’t have expected. I’m in love with the heartbeat of this song. I can feel every emotion as it intensifies in the tone and pitch that Austin applies to it. Que the lighters and hold the flame up high.
I Wanna Know
I promised the classic ballad feel that I described before, and here it is. With powerful, belt-worthy, purpose-filled lyrics, Austin and Tara make way for exactly what die-hard synthwave fans crave: a soundtrack that transports them from present to past. The reverb, the echo, the keys, all of it together at the introduction beams down from under the spotlight. The electric guitar brings us back. It’s that water drop effect, isn’t it? Half of the time, I can’t believe what I’m hearing – and even though I feel familiar with the nuances, it hits me that this is actually new. Tara Cruz’s incredible voice breaks that sense of comfort with a solo verse, and we’re cradled into the classics again. A gentle piano, the maracas, the symbols, the finger snap, it’s all there. Waiting for you to recognize it for what it is, and realize it’s here to stay.
8) Canyon Crows
[Setting: Scotland, UK]
As a synthwave connoisseur, (Aren’t we all?) I’d like to usher in this new artist into the fold. It’s easy to love anything Canyon Crows has released so far. In the case of their previous release FICTION, their flexibility is beyond a singular concept. In addition to the ambient synthscapes that we know and love, they’re also dedicated to a darker Mallsoft vibe, which is highlighted in their recent release Bad JuJu. It’s been difficult to pick just two tracks for any artist, not to mention separating albums from one vibe to the next, but I really have to highlight the differences for this one in particular so that you can place your personal pick on which vibe you prefer. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Some tracks gently bleed into the next, and Canyon Crows achieves this beautifully.
Is it just the intro? Is it more than just a phase? It is going to last a lifetime? I can get used to this mood. I really enjoy the ethereal embrace that atmospheric synth tracks provide. It’s like I’m descending deeper into another world…or outside of it. It’s an audio-visual experience when I can focus on a scene in my mind and listen closely to the music. The horns and reverb seep into the void and reflect off of the stars outside of my reach. Slipping further into a figment of my imagination with each wail of the synth. It’s simplistic, yet complex all at once, as the echo of a phone ringing tries to impede on my focus. I answer, but I never know who it is…
Speaking of anonymous phone calls. Let’s say Jacket from Hotline Miami invites you over to a local abandoned mall that’s been infiltrated by a group of rogue gang members. Well, when he hands you the Katana, it’s best to just go ham. This is the soundtrack to that imaginary situation. We all miss Hotline Miami, and we all love to be reminded of it. Severed Heads is both a boombox banger and a menacing mixtape, resounding through a brutal beating of bass. Plenty of the vibe within this album is reminiscent of a darker aesthetic that we can recognize and adopt without question. The only question I want to ask is: “Do you like hurting other people?”
9) The Racers
[Setting: Far Far Away, France]
We’re nearing the close of this chapter, but surprises are still left to unhinge and exploit! The Racers released a banger of a single called Final Lap, and more recently Culte de la Machine, and they even have some incredible remixes of a couple of tracks from The Midnight. This artist is going full throttle into the scene with heavy bass, energetic kick drums, and elaborate guitar solos. Truthfully, an unforgettable listening experience. I could continue to describe them further, but I’d rather push you into the deep end and drown out your worries with decadence in musical form.
The beginning of the track grants us passage into the echoes of an electronic cascade of sound alongside blips, and colorful chimes. They grow in rhythm as they tease your audible reflexes to pay attention to what’s coming. An epic showdown of synthesized effects raises your awareness of the eventuality that this is unlike all else we’ve heard thus far. The rapid clap presents the wailing electric guitar, as it takes full control of the body, making you wince with pleasure, and the impression of its riff causes your head to sway in motion. We collect ourselves in the wave of melodic mimicry, awe-inspiring arpeggios, and finally the noise fry to close us off, edging us without fulfillment, so that we may sit with unencumbered satisfaction.
10) Purple Blue
[Setting: ???, Netherlands]
I have to say my favorite part about finding random artists on my own is I can listen to their work unbiased and unaware of anything I’m about to encounter. I flip through what’s available, and my ear deciphers from there. Purple Blue caught my attention with their sound, talent, and core nuances alone being my guide. Despite not being established on Spotify, (which I only used to check album dates for reference), I was delighted to find them at all. When I hear music that I know is good, I put it to the test. If I can repeat it, and resist skipping it, it’s all go from there. Their EP Free is a great example of a well-produced synthwave project that corners the audience with defined influence. It forces us to hear their version of what people love about the genre as a whole. That being said, let’s finish this 3k+ word count article off with a bang.
The warm synth tunes bend and fold with the tides of reminiscent chords. Keep a close ear on the percussion. It’s about to get heavy. Now, notice the peak, claps, and reverb on the strings. These are the ingredients to a properly classified Synthwave track of the modern age. Once the kick-drum begins, it’s all a matter of time before you’re enveloped in Purple Blue’s trance. That electric guitar sneaks up on you early on, and as the song progresses, it holds its end of the bargain as it blares alongside the melody. The harmony of all of these elements contributing and enhancing each other is intoxicating. Every rise and fall has its purpose, and every beat partners up with a clap, creating an abundance of cleverly composed sound.
Final Thoughts & Words of Encouragement:
We’ve made it to the end of the journey! We’ve successfully indulged into the next wave of artists taking over the Synth-Scene!
All that’s left is for you as readers, fans, admirers, and fellow-artists, to support each other, grow together, learn from each other, and follow/subscribe/merch-binge on who caught your attention and which selections fuel your desire for more.
There is so much music to be made and listened to, and enjoyed! This list is just a reflection of what I personally perceive as not just “good music” but as a clear message that, “these artists deserve the spotlight just as much as the Top 10 Synthwave Artists Of All Time do”!
In closing, to the artists mentioned above, consider this a warm welcome into the Synthwave scene. We honor your talent, your personal goals, and your musical growth.
We ask that you keep going, bring more bangers into the world, and claim the spotlight you so deserve!
Your fan and musical scribe,
“Decent (Good) but, could be better” is a quote that could justifiably summarize this film. Wonder Woman 84 just premiered on HBO Max to polarizing reactions. Some say it was good and fun and others say it was a disappointment and some say its convoluted trash. Well, I say….
Merry Christmas my retroactive readers… and happy New Year; the world is still changed for the worse and we’re close to emerging from our exile into the corporate funded new world dystopia just before us.
Wonder Woman 84 was broadcast to the world on HBO MAX as an exclusive for the streaming service. No, I don’t really care if this rattles the ruffled shirts of the citizens of tinsel town – let us face the facts Theaters are OVER until further notice. Stuffing people into theaters during a supposed Pandemic just to save Hollywood is not on my to-do list and frankly Hollyweird has too many skeletons in their closets for me to care. If it streams it leads.
Wonder Woman was released on HBO and did meeeehh, sort of well. I mean some media outlets are calling it a moderate success… Well yeah considering the current condition of the world. The film cost around two hundred million to be made and as far as I know had barely made one hundred million. However, it did result in a big jump in HBO Max subscribers and we learned anything from BLACK MIRROR –that’s all that matters. So expect a lot more of these types of shenanigans especially after everyone tunes in to watch Snyder’s Justice League cut.
Was the film good or bad?
I did like Gal Gadot. Her acting is improving and she is able to express more emotions in this than the previous. I did like Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig’s attempts to flesh out characters with their performances from a script that is so riddled with plot holes and mcguffins it might as well be a Mario Kart race track. But, that’s all I liked.
Bad news is this is isn’t a really good film. 84’ is very surface material and superficial many times during the duration. The pacing is sluggish, the narrative is grueling and the script is lazy and doesn’t reinvigorate the things you liked about the first film. All you have is a shiny splash painting of vague nostalgia that was obviously inspired by that second Thor film, cheesy Hallmark moments and RomCom elements thrown into a Wonder Woman film were things just happen in an attempt to distance itself from the Snyder verse and revamp itself. The movie aims high but, falls on its face by the end.
One major reason for the script being so messy is because it was written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and David Callaham. The first Wonder Woman was written by Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs and Allan Heinberg with a screenplay written by Heinberg. Geoff Johns as a scriptwriter is hit or miss and Jenkins, although a capable film maker, I feel was overly built up by the hype of the first film as a solid writer. And David Callaham should’ve never been in the writers’ room for this project. Callaham’s previous films included the uncredited rewrite to Marvel Ant-man, all of the Expendables films, Zombieland:2 and 2005’s live action DOOM film; so tell me why he got hired. Jenkins and Johns was a rough pairing but some studio dickhead decided hire this guy to complete the triangle.
The film is sloppy. The first twenty minutes are disarming and misleading. You go into it expecting something decent and after a flashback scene setting up the films overall theme and a very fun action set piece taking place in a Washington DC mall, you are strapped in and held captive by dialogue and dialogue and there will be around a hundred minutes before the next action scene.
The film then revolves around a Mcguffin rock that grants wishes to whoever touches it. Pedro Pascal plays a financial tycoon seeking the stone to fulfill his wish for greatness, power and success fueled by his abusive and impoverished upbringing. Unfortunate beginnings that would humanize this antagonist if it were referenced earlier in the film not the climax. Maxwell seeks the wishing stone to be able to absorb the power of its potential and become the WISHMASTER. Maxwell Lord is basically a shallow self-centered materialistic dead beat father, the entire movie, willing to forfeit the entire world for his goals the whole friggin movie but, shoehorn in a hallmark ending to his character at the climax of the film to try and redeem his character. Props to Pedro Pascal for giving a solid effort here.
Trevor is back however in the dumbest way that could be unexplained in a film. So my guess is his consciousness was resurrected and implanted inside the body of some poor schlepp that looks like a Dollar Store Bruce Campbell action figure. Why this? We don’t know. Who was this guy? We don’t know. Does this vessels life matter? Fuck No; Even Diana doesn’t give a shit about this poor guys life. She is willing to basically live her life with Steve inhabiting this poor guys body forever because, “fuck it”, she wants what she wants.
Kristen Wiig who is a solid actress is also given nothing more than a rehash of Jim Carrey’s Riddler arc from Batman Forever. She is an attractive and educated woman who goes through life unnoticed and insecure in an era that is superficial and self-congratulating. Now, it would’ve been possible to do a drastic before and after wish difference if they did a Steve Rogers type transformation but, I guess “fuck it”. Wiig’s character goes from a simple ugly duckling into a super powered and alluring swan after just one wish into the wishing stone and a quick wardrobe change instantly. Her only price is in exchange for power her humility is lost. Instead she turns into a vapid, self-obsessed villainess that like Lord will throw the whole world under the bus to retain or gain her desired greatness, elegance, strength and power.
Both characters each symbolizing the stereotypical narcissism and self-serving natures of their genders. Yes, in creating this powerful feminie antagonist to match Diana they’ve unintentionally created a villain that projects the stereotypes of the selfish entitled woman.
The story is a mess with people teleporting from one end of the earth to the other. Wonder Woman running in mid-air comically and constantly, an invisible plane thrown in for fan service, super armor that’s built up in a useless scene only to be ripped up by Cheetah and a movie that drags on and on and gives you absurd things happening that make no sense in terms of telling a coherent story while simultaneously contradicting things that have happened later in BatmanVSSuperman and Justice League. I thought she turned away from humanity after WWI? – Why is she running around doing Wonder Woman shit in 1984? She flies now? She didn’t fly in either Snyder films (Correction Justice League theater cut was directed by Whedon). But, she now knows how to fly now cuz, well “aerodynamics”. She can swing on lightning bolts because, well “fuck it”, it’s cool. She fights Cheetah, who only appears in cat form at the friggin end of the movie in a five minute fight that you can barely see and the effects are meeeeeeehhh, the effects were okay by this point of the film. Hell halfway through the film my mind checked out and I just viewed the film as brain candy. To tell you the truth, I was laughing at things happening.
It’s not that the film was totally terrible. If you had low expectations then you might just think it is a one&done superhero viewing experience. Now if you are like the majority of mindless wave chasers then you’ll either love it or hate it. If you ask me – it was just alright for the price of nothing. I didn’t have to leave my house and spend $15 – $30 just to sit and watch this in a theater of twits and finger sniffers. I was home and saw it on a streaming service. So, it only cost me about two hours of my time.
A bad film that is bearable to watch is okay with me. The film is what it is. It is in no way worse than other films that have been released this year alone; Bill & Ted 3 is a worse film. I can’t even put WW84 in the same conversation with my most hated movies ever list. It was like laughing at a poorly executed punchline. In no way did I become enraged during the runtime; that honor goes to films such as Birds of Prey, Cabin in the Woods, Suicide Squad and others. The problem with WW84 is not that it is bad- The problem is that the film does all the bad things I hate about Hollywood movies nowadays; it’s the most MARVEL type DC movie the WB has forced upon us. They’ve finally made a Marvel type DC film and I hated being a witness to it.
Please forgive any grammatical errors. It’s around two in the morning out here in the middle of nowhere. If you can make excuses for films like this then you can deal with a typo here n there.
In the meantime, Stay safe retro fans. Stay safe, stay healthy and keep your fingers on that REWIND button.
Top 10 Retrowave Tracks of 2020
Top 10 Synthwave Tracks of 2020
Like our lists? Check out our Top 10’s from previous years:
Top 10 Synthwave Tracks of 2020
Top 10 Retrowave Album Art of 2020
9. Art Direction and Graphic Design – George Gold Design
3D Illustration – 3am_Render
Nightcrawler – Visionary
Like our lists? Check out our Top 10’s from previous years!
Top 10 Sythnwave Album Art of 2020
Top 10 Retrowave Albums of 2020
Top 10 Synthwave Albums of 2020
(Very) Honorable Mentions
Yota – Hazy Paradise
Top 10 Retrowave Albums 202
Top 10 Synthwave Albums of 2020
10. Waveshaper – The Disk Hunter
The Stockholm Synthwaver takes us on a night cruise through a majestic technopolis.
Listen to The Disk Hunter
9. Powernerd – Destroy to Create
Powernerd suits up in chrome battlegear and delivers an action-packed EDM-meets-Synthwave EP full of electrifying basslines and punchy beats.
Listen to Destroy to Create
8. Sierra – All About Love
Sierra’s existential angst reaches meets new depths of violence, lust and depravity.
Listen to All About Love
7. Gress – MMXX
Pure industrial dark synth Armaggedon made in Russia. The soundtrack to your neighbour’s moving out.
Listen to MMXX
6. Nightstop – Stalking Danger
Night driving music full of scintillating synths and funky beats. Old tropes shine anew through brilliant execution.
Listen to Stalking Danger
5. Makeup and Vanity Set – Tesseract
The masked Synthlord teams up with cyberpunk artist Liam Wong for a short trip down the murky back-alleys of NeoTokyo.
Listen to Tesseract
4. Florida Skyline – Machinekore. (Demos)
A collection of tracks by a young prodigy from Russia, who tragically passed last December.
Blending Vaporwave, Synthwave and EDM, Sophia’s posthumous demo EP is an unrivalled display of sophistication and raw talent.
Note: 100% of proceeds collected from Florida Skyline’s Bandcamp are donated to Transgender Equality Related Organisations.
Listen to Machinekore. (Demos)
3. Mitch Murder – Artifact
A fantastic set of leftover tracks from the Swedish producers’ Cyberpunk 2077 sessions, compiled into an EP. Perfect to fuel up your shootouts across Night City.
Listen to Artifact
2. STRNGR – Bumping Uglies
A filthy couple of dark electro tracks by Cincinnati’s bloodthirsty STRNGR.
For those who like their Synthwave black and unsweetened.
Listen to Bumping Uglies
1. Sellorekt/LA Dreams – Back at the Office
A brilliant throwback to Office life in the 80s’ at the crossroads between Synthwave and Vaporwave.
Listen to Back at the Office
List Compiled with help from Andrew Zistler.
Man, this has been a year. Anyone who’s still sane enough to twiddle their thumbs has been desperate for both quarantine-friendly activities and simple, raw distraction from the state of things. It is no surprise, then, that a great many of us have leaned into video gaming like a plant leans toward the sun… with great need in our hearts. Sure, in a tiny way that might be depressing, but we’re trying to survive here. We do what we can. We do what we must.
We play video games. Don’t bug us about it.
As per the yearly protocol, our fearless leader has given us our marching orders and asked us to furnish our usual top-ten lists. I have done my best to compile for you a list of the best retro-themed games from this year. There weren’t a metric ton of titles released in that vein in 2020, but it was certainly quality over quantity. This spread was gathered from Steam, the Epic store, consoles, etc. in as broad a swathe as possible. If the graphics, play style, or just the feel qualified as retro, it went in the pile to be sorted. If you feel I’ve misplaced a game in the order, feel free to email me and bury a battle-axe in my buttocks, but it was hard to put the ten titles that survived the cut into an hierarchy, because any one of them could have been numero uno on this list. All ten are worth playing if you haven’t. Here goes!
Special thanks to Shini, Eric, and my other friends who helped me gather data on short notice out of the goodness of their hearts. I haven’t been on top of industry news (or my NRW email) this year because of everything else that’s been going on, so it was a blessing to be able to call on you for help. You answered it, and I am deeply thankful.
#10 Star Renegades
Developer: Massive Damage
This one is only so low on the list because its play style may not be for everyone, but it’s an amazing game and should not be overlooked. SR blends real-time strategy, traditional RPG, and roguelike elements into a cutting-edge yet retro-as-hell cocktail. The game is so pretty, and I also enjoy the mechanics for combat. While there is a storyline, many elements are procedurally generated as in a roguelike, so the replay value is insane. The only thing keeping this title from more mainstream popularity is its relative involvement level and complexity, as well as considerable difficulty. You could play it casually, but it’s “not for casuals.”
Developer: Arsi Patala
This game does two things right for a retro-FPS title. First off, it pays homage to its ancestors left and right without just being a clone or copy. Second, it completely kicks ass. Ultrakill is violent, colorful, action-packed, and just complex enough to provide some variance to the one thing you showed up for: VIOLENCE. The visual style, at its core, reminds me immediately of Quake II, and there isn’t a thing wrong with that because it travels in its own unique direction. Combine this with creative gameplay elements (you bathe in your enemies’ blood to regain health!) and a veritable crucible of clever FPS challenges throughout, and you have something the younguns and the greybeards like me can all appreciate. Ultrakill is a love letter to its own lineage, and it’s the most heartfelt, blood-soaked love letter one could hope for.
#8 Rogue Legacy 2
Developer: Cellar Door Games
The sequel to an already-amazing game, RL2 improves upon what its predecessor did and further blends the hardcore nature of the roguelike with dynamic gameplay to appeal to a wider audience of gamers. It has a cute look to it, a good balance of complexity and simplicity in its RPG-esque elements, enough randomization to spice things up, and an engaging platform-style base mechanic that is approachable without being too easy. You can tell a lot of love went into RL2, and it’s not just standing on its prequel’s head to look taller… it’s a wonderful game and it’s worth looking at in its own right. I especially enjoy how the sense of pervasive danger combines with the cartoonish art.
Developer: Polygon Treehouse
Röki puts a strong focus on adventure, exploration, and puzzle-solving… but it is also such a fucking pretty game to look at. There is also a strong emphasis on story, which is conveyed through lovingly-animated and delightfully well-written cinematic sequences. Impatient gamers may think it moves too slowly, but Röki’s distantly related to those LucasArts story-games that so many of us adore. I risk sounding pretentious by saying this is a game for people who enjoy a little thinking. Beyond that, it has a distinct style and a very meaningful story to tell. If you’re looking for a change from the more prevalent smash-cut style of adventure game, Röki is essential for you.
#6 Streets of Rage 4
Developers: DotEmu, Lizard Cube, Guard Crush
We all remember the classic series of beat em up games Sega released for the Genesis. Colorful, exciting, and full of brawling action. This fourth installment is an appreciative and respectful revival of everything you loved about the original SoR series. The graphics are far more comic book than video game, but they are lovely and the animation is just as splendid. Blaze and Axel return along with some new friends to once again take the fight to the garishly-garbed punkers and miscreants wandering the city. Tiny elements of other classic fist-and-foot 90s gold finds its way in (for instance, you can get points for beating the shit out of a junked car, a shout to SFII’s bonus rounds). While SoR4 isn’t a truly new idea, it’s a very valuable and enjoyable re-imagining of a franchise we all hoped would eventually show itself again. It has not failed to impress.
Developer: Easy Trigger Games
This brutal indie action game will have you believing you’re playing it on a Sega Genesis. Gritty yet popping with color and flash, Huntdown places you in a dark near-future chock full of neon and blood. The pixel-based art is exquisite and the gameplay is like if NARC or the RoboCop video games were actually fun to play. I must comment on one striking element: the amazing voicework and sound effects seem to converge with the game’s lower-tech visual feel instead of clashing with it. Throw in a simple but very entertaining storyline along with well-placed cinematic storytelling transitions, and you have a game that will appeal to any diehard fan of run-and-gun scrollers.
#4 Spelunky 2
Developers: Mossmouth, Blitworks
The sequel to an equally wonderful platform adventure game, Spelunky 2 hands the story over to the next generation of explorers as they explore the Moon’s interior on the hunt for their lost kin. There is a ton of variety, and not just because of procedural generation. You’ll find yourself consistently intrigued and challenged by new and weird environments, as well as tested by various threats along the way. I also like any game that features non-annoying tutorials, and I must say that Spelunky 2’s is just what it should be. Plus you get pets! I’m all about that.
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
This shit is my jam. Reverse-horror is a genre I could stand to see more of, no matter how much we already have of it. Carrion knocks it out of the park. Immense detail and a slew of wise design choices make this game difficult not to enjoy. It’s even fun to watch, because it’s almost framed like a horror/sci fi film. There is no escaping Carrion’s atmosphere, and crawling around eating terrified humans as a sentient bio-waste monster never really gets stale. This one’s another example where the sound is higher-fidelity than the pixel graphics, again to excellent effect. So little needs explanation, despite the concept being an unusual one in so many ways. Carrion is wrapped in a neat, blood-stained package for you to pick up and discover your inner monster.
#2 Death and Taxes
Developers: Placeholder Gameworks, Pineapple Works
An incredible, unique story in the form of a game, Death and Taxes features an incredible narrative told with an irreverent but gentle sense of humor. In this puzzle/simulation title, you are Death, the Grim Reaper. As it turns out, your job is more of an office grind than a constant scythe-toting hunt for souls, and the lives and deaths you govern form your paperwork. In Death and Taxes, your decisions directly affect the rest of the story in such a complex fashion that the game has at least 30 possible endings. Its image-by-image style speaks to the oldschool story games that were popular on the PC-98 and Sharp x68000 computers in the 1990s. What’s different is the amazing artwork style and the fluidity created by the nuanced story design. Along with Röki, This is one for the thinkers… but it’s also lovely if you just like games that bother to tell a story.
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
“Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about death.”
Not my words. That is how the developer describes this fucking unspeakable work of high art. And they’re not being cute or edgy. In Spiritfarer, you play the skipper of a ferry that takes the souls of the dead to the hereafter. The art and visuals for this game are matched by its lovely dialogue and engaging management-based activities. You feel very much like you’re part of the meaningful story being told, and yet the game’s focus is mostly on its themes and message, not you. You’re a cast member, not necessarily the star, and you won’t mind at all because Spiritfarer isn’t just a game. It’s high art. Play this and get lost in it.
2020 has been a son of a bitch. Here’s hoping 2021 is brighter and better. I am proud of all of us for making it through, and I sincerely hope all of you NRW readers have a delightful holiday season full of love and merriment.
Oh, and stay retro!