Michael CA L's Top 10 Releases of 2014
By Michael CA L
DATAStream - Corruptopia
In Corruptopia, each track has something interesting about it, with the songs obviously having been carefully composed, arranged and produced by a person who understands synthesizer technology and, more importantly, understands and loves the sound, atmosphere and feel of 80s synths as they were found in film, video games and other media from the era. Looking at the cover art is one of the first things a person might do when introduced to this album, and from the 80s visual aesthetic it's easy to see that this is a story that involves that classic cyberpunk theme of 'high-tech and low-life', involving a future that's technologically rich but socially and ethically bankrupt.
Phaserland - Electric Atlantic
The entire release radiates a clear passion for synthesizer music through a variety of genres and does so with a dexterity, expressiveness, and purposeful forward-movement towards new ground. Electric Atlantic is a beautiful and powerful release.
Droid Bishop - Beyond the Blue
An album of spacious power that contains some of the best hooks of any synthwave release that came out in 2014. A glorious tribute to the interstellar side of the 80s, spliced with contemporary-sounding production and some fantastic vocal elements.
Le Cassette - Left to Our Own Devices
What the members of Le Cassette have put together in Left to Our Own Devices is their cultivated and refined knowledge of 80's sound, production, tone, rhythm, melody, lyricism, pop-hooks, delivery and atmosphere. The synthesized result is a collection of music - roughly two years in the making - that's interesting, catchy, complex, and likely what the band members (all devoted lovers of 80's music and culture) would want to hear when they're enjoying a Saturday night with good friends, good drink and good tunes.The band's enthusiasm, knowledge and clear understanding of what made 1980's synthesizer music great has turned Le Cassette's debut album into far more than the sum of its parts.
Jordan F - Slipstream
The Rosso Corsa label didn't release a tremendous amount of material in 2014, but what it does release is inevitably of very high quality. Jordan F's Slipstream is a radiant example of the sleek end of the synthwave spectrum. It's beautifully produced, polished and is, through-and-through a fantastic collection of brooding, intense 80's-inspired music.
Mitch Murder - Interceptor
There's reverence, respect and revelry in this album. It's a tribute to the feeling of what it was like to grow up in the 80's and to be under the spell of the unforgettable media the era produced.
Timecop1983 - Journeys
A true aficionado of the nostalgic, atmospheric and cinematic side of the 80's, Timecop1983's Journeys is a beautiful release, brimming with fantastic guest appearances and tinged with tones that are subtly melancholic, youthfully energetic, and mysteriously dreamlike.
Haüer - Esperbyte
If there has to be a sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner (I'd rather there wasn't, but that's an argument for another time) and Vangelis was unavailable to take on the scoring duties, I'd prefer that Haüer was in charge of the music.
Wulf - The Summer EP
Excellently produced and very well-composed synthwave tunes that ride the "beaches, sunsets and fast cars" theme to heights that haven't been reached since Miami Nights 1984 virtually defined (or at the very least refined) that now-classic Synthwave trope. It's some of the most fun, well-put-together, mid/fast-paced synthwave released in 2014, and it's destined to become one of my go-to albums for joy riding on warm summer days and nights.
The Dust Collective - Synthia
A new producer on the 80's-inspired scene, The Dust Collective released his debut album Synthia as a labour of love and as his first foray into creating 80's-inspired, synth-based music. It has all the attributes of a producer who grew up in the 80's and loved the variety of sounds and atmospheres that sprang from the era. I knew Dust Collective was making great music that appealed to my synthwave sensibilities the moment I first heard his beautifully textured and melodic tracks on Soundcloud. I'm still stunned hearing them now, but with the release of Synthia, there was the added bonus of having those gorgeous tracks fully realized and polished to perfection, selected and collected together with a bunch of fantastic new tracks that I hadn't heard before.