While the wide universe of Synthwave has given birth to a number of beloved sub-genres since its inception, few have become more popular than the ethereal and dreamy sound of Chillwave. An atypical and incredibly unique incarnation of Retro culture, Chillwave is an elegant mix of 80’s vibes and modern electronics, all wrapped up in a sophisticated layer of cinematic nostalgia. Here are 10 Chillwave songs that will send you straight to a world of dreams and wonder:
10 “Soleil Bleu” by LÜNE
French prodigy LÜNE has quickly become one of the top artists in the Chillwave bubble. His signature style is a clever mix of Synthwave and French House that many artists have unsuccessfully tried to replicate. “Soleil Bleu” is an insanely groovy track that confirms without the shadow of a doubt that LÜNE is one of a kind. The song is part of his 2018 debut EP “Rêve Lucide” (which is French for Lucid Dreams), and while every single song in it is a joyful piece of art with its own merits, “Soleil Bleu” definitely takes the cake as the best of the bunch.
9 “Caligula” by Windows 96
Brazilian composer Gabriel Eduardo, better known as Windows 96, has built quite a reputation for himself since his 2016 debut. But, despite already being praised for his inventive body of work, he has continued to regularly raise the bar. In 2018, Windows 96 released his 6th album “One Hundred Mornings”, and immediately, the opening track “Caligula” swept people off their feet. “Caligula” is a slow, progressive and soothing intro with a retro melody often compared to German masters Kraftwerk.
In other words, the song is a great representation of the legacy left behind by 80’s Electronica, and Windows 96 is living proof of retro music being as alive and modern as ever. “Caligula” (and the rest of Gabriel’s catalog) is a true love letter to an era of music that feels like a dream to so many, and his ability to capture that feeling and atmosphere is a testament to his incredible talent.
8 “L.E.V.E.L” by Emil Rottmayer
Emil Rottmayer is a gifted artist from the UK that has been a pillar of the Chillwave genre since his 2016 debut single “Distraction”. His catalogue is as consistent as can be, every single one of his songs showcasing a lush and sophisticated style that only he can capture. That said, of all of his songs, 2020’s “L.E.V.E.L” is the one that best incapsulates his impeccable production work. The song is smooth and intelligently built with a retro atmosphere designed to feel like a trip right back to the 80’s.
7 “America Online” by The Midnight
The Midnight are amongst the absolute elite of the Synthwave world. They have perfected the genre almost to perfection, and it was only a matter of time before they took a crack at Chillwave in their own unique way. That song finally came in the form of their 2019 single “America Online”, a true masterclass of melodic ingenuity that shocked their fans to no end. The song is stellar, made complete with a beautiful vocoder (reminiscing of Daft Punk’s sound) that perfectly blends with the nostalgic vibe of The Midnight.
The Midnight later came back to Chillwave in their 2020 album “Monsters”, with songs like “Helvetica” and “Night Sky”, which are all wonderful in their own right, but nothing can compare to the original surprise of “America Online”. The song was a revelation for many of their fans, and it is yet another pillar responsible for popularizing the genre to wider audiences.
6 “Night Sky” by Krosia & A.L.I.S.O.N
Both Krosia and A.L.I.S.O.N have become some of the more well-known artists of Chillwave, praised for their brilliant melody work. So the excitement at the idea that there could come a day where they join forces to make a legendary song together was 100% warranted. And “Night Sky”, the Chillwave fever dream that finally came true in 2019 after their first team-up “Once” a year prior, was no disappointment. The soft and ethereal collaboration perfectly marries Krosia’s clever composition style with A.L.I.S.O.N’s signature groove, and it quickly became a fan favorite in the community.
5 “Hometown” by French 79
Simon Henner, French guitarist of the Kid Francescoli project, decided to create a solo project in the year 2014. And thus, French 79 was born. Since then, Simon’s music has become a true staple of modern Synthpop. From his debut classic “Between The Buttons”, to his mega-hit “Diamond Veins” with Sarah Rebecca, he very quickly proved to be one of the most talented composers the genre has ever known. And none of his songs prove that more than “Hometown”, the artistic tour de force from the 2019 album “Joshua”.
Accompanied by a gorgeous music video inspired by Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Hometown” is a beautiful, groovy and overall brilliant song full of style and creativity. It grabs you from the very start and doesn’t leave you until the very end.
4 “Dynamic” by Voyage
Voyage’s warm and fuzzy signature sound is a perfect representation of what Chillwave evokes in people’s minds when mentioned. Songs like “Paraside”, “Allude” or “Beyond” are all considered classics that capture the dreamy atmosphere of the genre to perfection, but 2018’s “Dynamic” is by far the greatest of Voyage’s efforts. The song has become a major inspiration for Synth artists, and the influence it has had will definitely be staying for a long, long time.
3 “Godspeed” by Wayfloe
Wayfloe has only been around since 2015, but the mysterious French duo is without a doubt one the greatest entities the Synth-verse has ever known since its inception. Their creativity is a true force of nature that no one can quite understand or replicate, and given how versatile and unpredictable they can be with their music, it was more than obvious that a Chillwave track by Wayfloe was going to arrive at some point.
2019’s “Godspeed” is one of the most beautiful songs the genre has to offer. The melody work in it is out of this world, and it perfectly showcases Wayfloe’s innate ability to adapt to any genre with a specific sound that still feels like their own. The song being a part of their debut album “Neon West”, which is full of Synthwave modern classics such as “Rose Ellen Dix”, “Scarlet Speedster” or the now legendary “Fractions”, but “Godspeed” definitely stands out as one of Wayfloe’s absolute best.
2 “Slow Peels” by Com Truise
In the eyes of many, American producer Com Truise is the one person to be credited for both the invention and the rise of Chillwave as a genre. As Synthwave was being born and solidified in the mid-2000’s, he is the one that essentially crafted the smooth and atmospheric sound that is now the basis of all Chillwave songs. The track “Slow Peels”, in his 2011 debut EP “Cyanide Sisters”, is the perfect example of the credit he deserves. While it isn’t his most popular song, it is by far its most powerful in terms of what it represented for the future of the genre.
In essence, Com Truise is the father of Chillwave, and “Slow Peels” feels like a starting point for the incarnation it has taken over the last decade. The glitchy and dissonant aspect of the song, paired with ethereal melody work, creates an “old TV” feel that has become synonymous with the genre today. And if we can assert that all 11 tracks of the “Cyanide Sisters” EP worked as a starting point for Chillwave to emerge as a sub-genre, “Slow Peels” is definitely the song out of the bunch that sounds the most with the current iteration of it.
1 “Resonance” by HOME
This now iconic and dreamy classic is an absolute powerhouse of melody and nostalgia. One of the only Chillwave songs (and the first) to hit mainstream audiences, racking up over 100 million views on YouTube alone, “Resonance” is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs in the Synth Universe, elevating producer Randy Goffe (better known as Home) to the status of living legend within the community. The song has proven to be so incredibly popular that, in 2019, Electronic Gem (the YouTube channel that made the song a hit) pulled a brilliant April Fool’s joke by releasing a video titled “Resonance 2″, tricking over 180,000 people into clicking on it.
To this day, ”Resonance” is Chillwave’s finest piece of art, one that has raised the bar extremely high in the Electronic music genre as a whole. It kickstarted an era of Vaporwave aesthetics that became a staple of internet culture, and it paved the way for a number of future artists to popularize the genre to bigger audiences. And while HOME has released a fantastic catalog of genre-defining music with songs like “Head First” and “Come Back Down”, nothing can compare to the hypnotizing perfection of his 2014 masterpiece”.