2018 has been another great year for music, including Vocaloid. It’s been so good, in fact, that I’ve expanded my list from “top 5” to “top 10”! A lot of well-established and popular producers kept good material flowing this year and a few promising debuts also popped up. You know how these lists work, so let’s get right to it; here are my Top 10 Vocaloid Albums of 2018:
Honorable Mention: GREATEST SHITS – UtsuP
UtsuP’s greatest hits remastered. What’s not to like? Some of the newer material doesn’t need remastering (I can’t tell if those have been changed at all), but other tracks bring a fresh listen to songs I know well. I’ve relegated it to an honorable mention since it’s not original material, but no Utsu fan should write this album off.
Links: iTunes, Spotify, Amazon
#10 – Fiction – Yunosuke
After Yunosuke’s awesome previous release, Black or White, I was a bit disappointed by Fiction. Even so, a number of the tracks still hit hard with Yunosuke’s infectious beats and Osamu’s top-tier tuning. Although it’s not as solid as a whole, this album makes the list because parts of it keep me coming back for more.
Best tracks: Alexis, Look at Me Now, Catalyst
Links: Amazon, Spotify, Bandcamp
#9 – Revolt – Ginsuke (AKA Ocelot)
The quality of Ginsuke’s music is pretty consistently good. Trap and dubstep are not really my forte, but I still find Ginsuke’s songs engaging. This album is no exception, presenting a short but solid lineup of electronic tracks with smooth hooks and jumping breakdowns. It didn’t stick to me as much as some others on this list, but I’ve gotta give it some recognition. Shout-out to the track “Torch” for making me think my audio was messed up due to some well-executed glitches.
Best songs: Middle Age, Gossip, Unreachable Love
#8 – Object Z from Star Nayutan – Nayutan Alien
Nayutan Alien’s third album brings more of their wildly successful pop-rock style. Like Object X and Object Y, there’s no shortage of super catchy songs on this one, and even many of the slow songs hold my interest, which is important given the 1-hour run-time. After three albums the formula of Nayutan’s music is pretty clear, but they’ve managed to keep it interesting and fun. I’ll be waiting to see what they do next.
Best songs: Comet Honeymoon, Endless Airbattle, Morning Star Galactica, Love Invasion Plan
#7 – Diary of Underage Observation – KurageP
KurageP’s singles have had my attention for a while, so when he finally threw a bunch of them on an album with some new material, of course I loved it. The songs have some really good guitarwork, personality, and excellent use of Una and Yukari. I initially planned to put both of Kurage’s albums here, the other being I Became A Human, but I think I like Underage Observation much better as a whole. I still recommend giving both a listen.
Best songs: Parade of Mediocre People, Trash and Trash!, Chururira Chururira Daddadadda!, Check Check Check One Two!
Links: iTunes, Amazon
#6 – MONOCOLOR GIRL SUPERNOVA – Various Artists
This compilation is stacked with great rock/pop producers, like Potential 0, Carlos Hakamada, KurageP, and Harufuri, so naturally it packs a bunch of great singles. Along with the song variety comes a variety of voicebanks; Una, flower, Rin, GUMI, Teto, miki, IA, and Miku are all featured. What surprised me the most were two songs featuring the rare Kaai Yuki, especially track 4 by inaba comori. I recommend this comp as a sampling of some great current producers in Vocaloid pop-rock.
Best songs: Zazen Punks, Somebody’s Thanks, Non-use, Dream-Colored Festival
#5 – Summer without you – *Luna
This summer-themed album from Luna really took me by surprise. I only knew Luna from their singles, but they can clearly put out a full-length with consistently solid songwriting and production. Bibi’s tuning is also amazing; a few of these songs might have some of the best, most emotive Vocaloid vocals I’ve ever heard.
Best songs: Chatruge, Fading Summer Light, Clear Bright Answer, Morning of Goodbye
Links: Booth, Bandcamp
#4 – filia – haruno
Haruno is off to an amazing start with her debut full-length, filia. The entire album has a gentleness to it, as each song floats along to a relaxing, somewhat melancholic tone. It captures this feeling with a purposeful use of space and pauses. Miku’s vocals have a wonderfully soft and sweet delivery accompanied by acoustic guitar, keys, and percussion that each have the right amount of presence. It’s probably an album to listen to for a certain mood (either you’re in that mood or it’s gonna put you in that mood), but it’s incredibly enjoyable and well made in any case.
Best songs: in between, Room, Squall
Links: Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, Booth, Amazon
#3 – MIKUHOP LP3 – Various Artists (Stripeless)
The first two MIKUHOP LPs were mixed bags, holding some really stellar tracks as well as some fairly bad material. This compilation series finally hits a great groove with it’s third release, delivering 17 solid tracks from an assortment of producers in Vocaloid’s hip hop scene. The album mostly consists of chill hip hop/rap with the exception of a handful of poppy or more intense songs. I usually gravitate towards aggressive, hard-hitting rap, but this comp has a variety of sweet flows and pleasing beats that keep me listening. This LP is one of the rare comps that I can listen to entirely without ever wanting to skip a song.
Best songs: Metamorphosis Rettou, Represent, Oni ga Kita, campfire
#2 – Inai Inai Reboot – Kairiki bear
I’ve been a fan of Kairiki bear for almost as long as I’ve listened to Vocaloid, and Reboot cements their place as one of my very favorite active producers. It delivers clean, bouncy riffs, catchy choruses, and verses full of instrumental and vocal flavor on track after track. Kairiki’s instrumental prowess ensures that there isn’t a single dull cut on the album, as even the bookend tracks are killer and previously great singles like “Scattered Heart” are vastly improved in the album version. To top it all off, there are three MARETU covers of Kairiki bear songs at the end, which is one of the best crossovers I could ask for. All-in-all, a bulletproof album.
Best songs: Lemming Ming, Scattered Heart, Hate Girl, Minus Label
Links: Toranoana, Animate Online
#1 – Kikuo Miku 5 – Kikuo
After it dropped in the last days of 2017, this album completely consumed my listening time for months. I was sucked in by this project that takes the spirit and thematic elements of Kikuo’s music and injects them into an album that is structurally and stylistically quite different from much of his previous Vocaloid work. That’s not to say that Kikuo has ever been bound to a certain style (infusing his unique sound into whatever he makes is one of his strong points), but I think there are trends you can hear developing on other albums, especially Kikuo Miku 4, that manifest in this release. Each track takes influences from vastly different genres and styles, giving them their own draw, yet they are also connected by Kikuo’s sound, allowing them to build tension collectively to a climax at Track 7 (for me, at least). Miku’s vocals are exceptional, changing delivery to enhance the tone of the music throughout the album. The vocals also seem less lyric-heavy and utilize more repetition to great effect. I could honestly rant about this album for a while, but I’ll spare you the inevitable word salad. I’ve listened to Kikuo Miku 5 regularly for almost the entire year and writing this has only put me on a new kick, so it is without a doubt my favorite album of 2018.
Links: Bandcamp, Spotify
That does it for this year’s list! What were your favorite albums and songs of 2018? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading and have a happy holidays!
Featured image source here.