As another year has drawn to a close, it’s time to review my picks for the best albums from the Vocaloid scene in 2019. There’s been no shortage of excellent Vocaloid music in 2919, and 2020 is already starting to look promising, so there’s a lot to be excited about! Before I get started, I want to mention that a few albums on this list were either released at the very end of 2018 or were not available digitally until 2019. In both cases, I couldn’t consider them for the previous year’s list so they count for 2019. As usual, every album will be have a link to its VocaDB page so you can easily find places to stream and purchase the music.
Let’s start off with a few honorable mentions, which just so happen to all be mini-albums or EPs.
- LIME – 23.exe: I reviewed one of 23.exe’s albums a couple years ago, but didn’t really pay much attention to them after that. Turns out that was a mistake, ’cause this EP’s bubbly pop-rap songs like “CHO-DARI” and “YY” are right up my alley. Don’t pass on this one.
- Don 2 Music 3 – Various Artists: Another Don 2 Music compilation EP featuring the usual suspects like Nayutan Alien, Harufuri, Neru, and MI8k. These comps always provide a nice sampling of some of the latest Vocaloid rock and pop-rock. There are some really bangin tracks on this one, so give it a spin. Don 2 Music 4 just released as well so keep an eye out for that!
- DEAD MAN TIMES – KurageP: This mini-album from Wada Takeaki contains a number of songs from various compilations as well as some new material, all featuring Otomachi Una – one of my favorite Vocaloids from recent years.
- BE4OND – takamatt: I appreciate takamatt for bringing a healthy dose of reggae influence into their Vocaloid music. You’ll get a good taste of that in this short album along with some hip hop and electronic sounds.
- turfy living – Spoony Automata (Croissant Chicago & Tetola): A pretty chill, mathy post-rock collab album. I haven’t heard much of Tetola’s material outside of Spoony Automata, but I’m a longtime fan of Croissant Chicago’s soft math rock, so I’m always happy to hear more.
#10. ATOLS/MIKU 3 – ATOLS
We start off with the latest album from electronic producer ATOLS, delivering quite a variety of styles including dubstep, house, jazz, and some experimental tracks. In this case, the song diversity breaks the sense of cohesion I get from the strong, tone-setting opening track and its follow-up. Nonetheless, the songs are still catchy and unique and I found myself spinning this one quite a bit at the beginning of the year. Also, ATOLS/MIKU 4 has already been released as of Dec. 31, so if you like ATOLS there’s something new to look out for!
Best songs: Don Gara Shan, MINT, Dance of Reality
#9. ZERO-GO – PinocchioP
I’m guessing this one would probably rank higher for a lot of fans. Obviously I like this album since it’s on this list, but it didn’t find its way into my listening cycle nearly as much as some others, so I couldn’t put it as high on my personal list in good faith. Even so, I have to acknowledge the quality of PinocchioP’s distinct sound, which comes through in both his instrumentation and vocals. I particularly like how he backs Miku’s leads with his own voice, which adds an extra layer of depth to the harmonies. As usual, you can also expect plenty of interesting themes explored in the lyrics of these songs, but you’ll have to check those out for yourself cause there’s not nearly enough time or space for that here. Overall, another pretty solid record in Pinocchio’s discography.
Best songs: Ghosts Play to the Audience, Whatever Yama Says Goes, Sick Sick Sick, What’s Inside, Zero
#8. MU – Rokuro
Rokuro is a rather new artist who’s off to a great start with this debut album. Most of the tracks have a garage rock feel with upbeat choruses between more intense (sometimes heavy) sections, and all utilizing catchy, energetic riffs. There are a couple of deviations from this sound like the more percussion and bass-driven “Myouchou, Neko wa Shizuka ni Warau” and the lighter “Hitorigachi” (my least favorite track from the album). I like the minimal guitar of the closing track’s verses, although I thought it could have built to something more climactic (not that the chorus of the song is bad). I always love to hear more GUMI and flower, and it seems like Rokuro uses the various voicebanks on this album strategically with songs that suit their flavor. The tuning is generally pretty good, but it does get a tad messy at a couple points. I generally don’t mind this and I think it meshes well with the garagey sound, but I can see it being a turn-off for some. Thankfully it looks like this album has drawn some attention and I can’t wait to hear more from Rokuro.
Best songs: Irokui no Oni, DADARUMA, Slow Downer, The Last Dance, Goal Tape Looper
#7. RENAISSANCE – UtsuP
UtsuP fans have been blessed with yet another album from the biggest name in Vocaloid metal. Utsu has always had a knack for fusing his bassy metalcore foundation with other genres. On RENAISSANCE, some of the new tracks like “The Beautiful Puke” and “Poisonous Spider Daughter” use trap-inspired hi-hats, a genre I don’t believe he’s borrowed from before. The results are pretty good, so I wonder if he’ll be exploring fusions like this in future projects. Along with the new material, this record also brings a remaster of UtsuP and PinocchioP’s collaboration song “Gorgeous Big Conversation” and UtsuP’s remix of “ECHO” by CrusherP, both of which are welcome treats. While I don’t think it quite levels up to some of Utsu’s previous material, most fans will find a good listen in this album.
Best songs: Hyper Reality Show, The Sun Goddess & Rat, ECHO Remix
#6. Menkai – HIDARITE
Number 6 goes to the sophomore album of another relatively new artist, HIDARITE. This one seems to have gone under the radar, and I can see why some might overlook it at first, but it somehow engaged me from the first listen. Generally a synth-pop album, some of the cuts play the genre fairly straight, adding a theme or gimmick to make a catchy track like “Girl’s Dragon Road” or “Oidemase Disco.” Others take a slightly quirkier turn like “Relational Compressor” and track 4, which both have strange solos that don’t exactly match the rest of the song, acting as a kind of subversion. In the former song’s case, the solo is surprising and odd, but reinforces the carefree and whimsical tone of the track, which makes it kind of comedic. For track 4, however, the dissonant, seemingly random notes of the solo contrast starkly with the straight and simple melodies of the rest of the song. This album contains a lot of little things like this that catch my attention and have kept me listening. Give it a try and see if it strikes your fancy!
Best songs: Girl’s Dragon Road, Oidemase Disco, Save Me, Demi-human Etude, 面と向かって
#5. ALBINO – Masa
The cover for this third album from Masa says “This is the best Fucking Songs,” and while I don’t think it contains all of his best songs, I do think this is his best album yet. Previous releases were somewhat unfocused and mixed bags when it comes to song quality. On ALBINO, there are distinct sections each following the styles Masa has explored in his material: dark, horror-themed songs with traditional Japanese instrumentation and pumped-up EDM/trap-rap. These two sections are bridged by “Skull’s Flower,” which is reminiscent of the rock style of Masa’s earlier material. I don’t think there’s a bad song on this record, but the standout tracks are definitely from the EDM side (they’re ALL bangers). Engrossing hooks, pounding bass, and fast-rapping Vocaloid duets abound; what’s not to love?
Best songs: GANESHA, CORLEO, BRASS NOISE FLAMENCO, GRAND CABARET, COSPLAY
#4. Cupid Power – MI8k (AKA NapoliP)
These top 4 albums are the cream of the crop and it was difficult for me to place them because they’re all so excellent. To start, we’ve got the latest from YUUKI MIYAKE, otherwise known as MI8k or NapoliP. This rock album contains its fair share of gnarly riffs and solos, but what stands out just as much is MI8k’s attention to absence and more subtle instrumentation. He uses texture, effects, and layering – especially with the guitar – to create captivating sounds even in passages that aren’t filled with sweet riffs. This leads to a number of songs where minimal yet still engaging verses break into powerful choruses in an excellent use of space and contrast. On the vocal side there’s lots of GUMI (always welcome), but also VY1 (an underused voicebank imo) and even a Yamine Renri song. MI8k also does a good self-cover of “Love & Destroy” with his own voice. In general, MI8k has stuck to a consistent style throughout his discography, and I think this album contains some of his best material. I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.
Best songs: Basket Worm, Mrs. Irony, Love & Destroy, Warau Mannequin, Empty Shell, Accident Coordinator
#3. Virtual Popstar – Mitchie M
Everything I’ve come to expect from Mitchie M is here: the smooth, natural tuning, the bright, clean production, the upbeat songs, all packed in an hour-long pop gauntlet. Though it’s generally pop, one of the best things about Mitchie M’s music is the wide variety of genre influences he incorporates. Funk, jazz, dance, hip hop, disco, reggae, dubstep, and big band are just a sample of the genres that dot his songs, keeping each track colorful and distinct. Mitchie M’s ability to pull off such diversity is due in part to the remarkable consistency of his top-class tuning. We get some of the best examples of this on Virtual Popstar from the scat singing on “House of Songs,” the natural talking on “Narcissism Kawaiism,” Miku’s falsettos in “Future Overture,” and the vocal acting on tracks like “Assassin Princess” and “Imetore Boogie,” which all imbue the vocals with character. Whether it’s the intensity of “Seraphim on the Ring” or the sugary sweetness of “Love! Snow! Really Magic,” every song has its own energy that draws me in to listening to the whole album, even when I only plan to play one song. If Hatsune Miku were a flesh-and-blood idol, this is the music she’d be singing.
Best songs: Seraphim on the Ring, Imetore Boogie, Narcissism Kawaiism, House of Songs, Assassin Princess, and many more
#2. SIU – MARETU
Maretu has been producing Vocaloid music for almost a decade now, and you can tell his style has really honed on his second Vocaloid album, SIU. Most of these tracks were released as singles over the past year or two, so they’ve been in my listening rotation for quite some time. I had heard most of these songs quite a lot already, but their placement in an album format has refreshed them to my ears. It probably also helps that every single track is a banger, leaving no dull moment through the whole run-time. Aside from the bass-blasting intro “Magical Doctor” and heavy metal track “Toutetsu,” SIU generally follows the unique style of digital rock Maretu has crafted over the years. He continues to showcase memorable keyboard melodies that range in tone from suspiciously upbeat to downright dismal, contrasting or reinforcing the dark lyrical content of the music. Some of my favorite cuts off the album are when the keys fall into deep, haunting piano chords like “Koukatsu” and the breakdowns on “Rebirth” and “The Taste of Cockroach.” These leads are backed by excellent bass guitar lines, complimenting drumwork, and adaptive, expressive vocals from Miku. To keep this short: this album contains what I believe is Maretu’s best material to-date and is well-worth a few dozen listens or so.
Best songs: Rebirth, Koukatsu, The Taste of Cockroach, Toutetsu, (but really all of them)
#1. Kikuo Miku 6 – Kikuo
This is the second year in a row that Kikuo has topped my year-end list so my bias should be obvious, but I truly believe he’s one of the most unique and talented artists in all of Vocaloid music, and this album continues to reinforce that belief. From his first Vocaloid album to his sixth, you can trace some clear shifts in Kikuo’s style, yet his particular sound comes through no matter what. KM6 is a realization of some of these trends, presenting a softer, sometimes echoey tone that remains as attention-grabbing and complex as his earlier material. These tracks can afford to be quieter at times due to the peerless quality of the production, making this a record worth listening to for its subtleties and texture. When the sound does become more direct – like in the infectious melody of “XxX Cat” or the eerie swells of “Cotton Candy” – it really pays off with impact. You can also hear Kikuo revisiting the sounds of Bali music on “Festival of the Dark” and utilizing tools from KM5 on tracks like “Cat’s Dining Table.” To stop myself before I start getting obsessive, it’ll suffice to say that this is an incredible album that brings fresh takes to Kikuo’s tried-and-true sound. It is more than deserving of the number one spot on my 2019 favorites list.
Best songs: The whole thing, but if I had to pick some: XxX Cat, Cotton Candy, Hole-Dwelling, Tunnel Adventure
So there you have it, the top 10 Vocaloid albums of 2019 as ranked by yours truly. Keep in mind that this is my personal list, so I know everyone will have different ideas about what should be in the top 10. That being said, I think these are all great albums and I recommend you check them out! I most definitely have not listened to everything that’s been released this year, so tell me what awesome 2019 music I missed in the comments and share your year-end list as well! Thanks for reading!
Featured image by YeaYe