Decade in Review | Best Albums of the decade

Fantastic debuts, impressive comebacks, surprising changes in looks and sound, setting records, breaking records. This decade has been nothing short of amazing.

Seiyuu fans were incredibly spoiled during this decade, one that was defining for seiyuu to take confident steps into the music industry with their own projects – solo, band or unit – and for music anime/2D music project creators. Creativity was at its peak and we got a wide variety of memorable releases.

For this feature we celebrate those albums (includes mini-album and full-length albums) that left a mark in this decade. This feature will be longer than usual as there are years that feature up to 3 albums that stood out the most in a specific year.

Here are the Best Albums of the decade, organized chronologically, as chosen by our team.


2010


OLDCODEX “hidemind”

hidemind is quite an interesting album. After a couple of gritty single releases, it was time to experiment, and this album was the result of trying to add new elements to their music, new progressions, new vocal approaches. OLDCODEX – with the original lineup of Ta_2, R.O.N and YORKE. – were making waves with their short-fused punk-rock sound, crafting songs made for the mosh pits but they wanted more.

With hidemind the band decided to play around with their sound, tackling their very first ballad – the haunting hidemind -, and bringing grunge and pop elements into their music, something that made their sound even more distinct.

Although far from the band’s best, this is an album with its gems, some of those, by now, iconic and classics among their fans.

Highlights: hidemind / #4 / Flag on the hill

Showtaro Morikubo 叫~kyo~

In an opposite direction was Showtaro Morikubo. The hardrocker had long found his sound and was making the most of it in what is his best album to date: Kyo.

The album exuded a matured artist in Morikubo, with lyrics and instrumentals showcasing a vast knowledge on rock music but, at the same time, donning his colors through and through.

This iconic album features everything a rock fan craves for: shredding guitar riffs, edgy solos, hard-hitting drums and groove metal bass lines. A highlight in 2010.

Highlights: dizzy candy / DoPaMiNe / Crazy Night


2011


Miyu Irino “Advance”

In 2011, Miyu Irino released the R&B/pop album, Advance. This album marked an important step in his career, stepping aside from the comfort of simple pop tunes and opening the doors to danceable tunes and addictive pop songs.

Wah-wah guitar riffs, disco and urban beats, guitar riffs and simple synth melodies created a new world for him. This energetic album would end up being one of the highlights of the year, unfortunately it has not aged well as well as some of the releases dated the year before.

Highlights: Zero / High Drive / ABC


2012


GRANRODEO “CRACK STAR FLASH”

2012 was a big year for GRANRODEO. The band was with several of their songs featured in anime series and driving a lot of interest to their music.

The release of CRACK STAR FLASH was one that shook the rock panorama and music industry in the niche hub that was music performed by seiyuu.

This is a high-throttle rock album with some of the fastest paced songs in the band’s repertoire.

GRANRODEO made sure that the album was not all in the same tone and featured a wide variety of songs with funk, heavy and classic metal elements throughout the tracklist. Not only was this album a testament to the band’s quality, it was also defined their career, setting them for higher flights.

Highlights: NO PLACE LIKE A STAGE / Mesmerize / Rimfire

OLDCODEX “Contrast Silver”

OLDCODEX‘s Contrast Silver is one of those albums that marked a generation of seiyuu fans.

With songs like Catal Rhythm, featured as the ending theme for the first season of Kuroko no Basket, the band was experiencing a rise in their popularity.

Back with fast-paced punk-rock tunes with broken guitar melodies and thunderous bass lines, the band was in their best moment, releasing headbanger after headbanger.

The band also started experimenting with electronica elements, something particularly noticeable in Cold hands. Unfortunately this would also be album that marked R.O.N’s (guitar/synths and backing vocals) departure from the band after 3 years.

Highlights: HEAVEN / Achromatic habit / Elephant over


2013


Mamoru Miyano “PASSAGE”

Mamoru Miyano‘s PASSAGE is an album that re-wrote history for seiyuu trying to break into the music industry as solo artists. It was also an album that completely changed Miyano’s image, now embarking towards a more mature approach to his music and visuals.

The album, released in 2013 shook the music industry with hit after hit, after hit song. Drum & bass was a major inspiration for this album, something that ended up making, on the long run, all the songs on this release survive the test of time and adapt to rock and dance arrangements on a live context.

UNSTOPPABLE, ULTRA FLY, GOLDEN NIGHT, Kanon, Supernova and many more memorable songs are featured in what is one of the best pop albums of all time (restricted to the seiyuu industry).

It also featured one of the best pop songs to ever grace us. Identity made a lot of jaws drop with its gorgeous instrumental mixing traditional Japanese music with pop and R&B. All in all, this is, hands down, the best album of 2013.

Highlights: Identity / GOLDEN NIGHT -futuremix-/ 辻の華 (Tsuji no Hana)


2014


2014 was a prolific year, especially when it came to releases that we can say, with a high degree of certainty, that they were the best of their year. After going through a list of fantastic releases we narrowed it down to 3.

Toshiyuki Toyonaga “Music of the Entertainment”

Toshiyuki Toyonaga made his solo debut in 2014 with MUSIC OF THE ENTERTAINMENT, and forever changed the panorama for seiyuu wanting to make a solo debut but without the resources or the features required by a major music label.

The album, keen on its jazz and 4-piece band sound, is filled with gems that range from enka songs to breathtakingly beautiful ballads, funky tunes, laidback jazz pieces and fast paced rock bangers.

Still to this date, this is one of the best albums released by a seiyuu. The quality of the music and vocals is unparalleled.

Highlights: Chase / ココロノビラ (Kokoro nobira) / Siren

Trignal “so funny”

Trignal‘s so funny is often an overlooked mini-album. However, not without a reasonable justification supporting it.

That the group had talented individuals in their lineup at the time of their debut was a given, however, things did not run smoothly for the group – even if, apparently, the group was being well received. However, to the trained ear, it was noticeable in the recordings of the first two releases that either the producers did not know what they were doing with the group (thus randomly following an idea of how and what a seiyuu unit should perform) or the group was simply not clicking on the vocal end. Reality was bleak and despite their bubbly looks and sound, Trignal were not a good seiyuu unit in their early days.

Around 2014, it was noticeable that Trignal were trying a different approach, something that was only later confirmed with the release of One Step Forward in 2015.

so funny, mini-album released in 2014, is often overlooked but in reality it is a great release. It was the prelude to the group’s change to a mature look and sound. It was also the first concrete release in which they got to showcase their quality on the vocal end and renewed chemistry. The album featured solo tracks, a first

It was a mini-album featuring songs that, up until then, were not expected of this trio. Things were finally working for the group and thankfully, since that day, they have been on a successful run and are now the best seiyuu unit out there.

Highlights: 愛しさのコントラスト (Aishisa no contrast) / ORIGINAL COLOR / Naughty

GRANRODEO “Karma to Labyrinth”

GRANRODEO are no strangers to releasing high-tension, riveting rock albums. Since their debut, their music keeps on constantly evolving and adding new layers to their wide array of talents.

2014’s Karma to Labyrinth is one of those iconic albums that kicks off with an enigmatic intro that is made to capture the listener’s attention. The band was raising the stakes and everyone was loving every second of it.

The album however, is more than what its intro showcases. For example silence, song that immediately follows it, is the complete opposite in tone with its high-throttle, speed metal vibe showing once more that versatility should be, by now, synonym of GRANRODEO.

An interesting addition was the “finished” version of DAWN GATE that changed its length from mere 5 minutes to whooping 9 minutes and flaunted an improved, more complex sound than the “unfinished” version present in The Other Self (2013) had.

Karma to Labyrinth is filled with hit songs and precious gems in the middle of those popular anime intro and ending theme songs.

Highlights: silence / baby bad boy / DAWN GATE


2015


Mamoru Miyano “FRONTIER”

Miyano seems to be a recurrent feature in this article but truth is, 2015 was a very slow year. Although FRONTIER is far from being Mamo’s best album, it is the album that stood out during a year weak on quality and with few noteworthy releases.

Still, this album has a charm that does not make it entirely subpar when in comparison with what Miyano has done over the years.

FRONTIER showcased a Mamoru Miyano that experienced the west in first person, having composed and or work on most of the songs in this release during a brief stay in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. As a result, FRONTIER is an album with heavy western influences, caving in to the heavy usage of synths that was common at that time on this side of world.

The title track is undeniably a track made to top US’ Billboard, the rest of the album follows the same trend, with none of the songs on it sounding anything alike what was being created in Japan.

Props to NEW ORDER, song that managed to collectively drop jaws within the seiyuu fandom and his fanbase.

Everyone still remembers how listening to the words “honey trap” and “now your turn me on” felt like a crime had been committed however we all stood in shock, pleasantly surprised at the sudden change in sound, approach and looks (the music video is still outstanding) that Mamoru had undergone.

Highlights: NEW ORDER / FRONTIER / TRUST ME

2016


Miyu Irino “DARE TO DREAM”

Miyu Irino underwent several changes in sound, approach to his music – taking the reigns and composing some of his songs, rock songs – and looks, now donning a mature, casual suited look that better matched the music that was being produced.

Irino worked hard for DARE TO DREAM, album that few would even predict was a presage to what would end up being a 2-year hiatus, away from any seiyuu or music activities in Japan. The album encouraged listeners to dream, to do it and fight for what they want. The focus on rock, jazz, funk was a pleasant change but the hiatus that followed left a bittersweet taste, as fans had to contempt themselves with the idea of having more music from Irino for a whole 2 years.

This album is still in heavy rotation on our side as it sounds as daring, challenging and fun as it did back in 2016. A gem that showed that Miyu Irino is a one-of-a-kind talent.

Highlights: フレンズ (Friends) / MONSTER / Crazy Love


2017


Shouta Aoi “0”

Shouta Aoi has been impressing since his debut in 2013. His angelic vocals and, sometimes, androgynous image have highlighted his versatility as a performer, able to embrace any concept and pull it off relatively easy. However, it took him 4 years to release an album that we can call a masterpiece of his.

0 (Zero) is a straightforward pop album that explores traditional Japanese music, rock, ballads, acoustic music and pop.

Shouta Aoi‘s versatility on the vocal end made it possible for him to fit every single music genre thrown at it. It was a delight to listen to song after song and being surprised of how well put together and how much the songs had an identity that we could easily trace back to Aoi. His vocal range was put to test plenty of times in this release, much to his fans’ satisfaction.

The buzz was all over him after the release of this album and since then, every release has been consistently good or even of superior quality.

Highlights: Zero / Powder Snow / Smile Smile Smile

TRIGGER “REGALITY”

We’ve covered this album more times than we expected. TRIGGER‘s REGALITY shares the throne of best album in 2017 with Shouta Aoi’s 0, much due to the quality on it – vocals and instrumentals – and the important hurdle it overcame.

If you read our previous takes on this album or on some of the songs in it, you noticed that this is an album that not only impacted our team in 2017 but it also took to the stores over 30,000 people that hurriedly supported the group and made them #1 on Oricon Weekly Albums chart (the generalist one, not the anime chart).

REGALITY is an exciting and catchy album, filled with pop songs of chart hitting potential and what is one of the best pop tracks of this decade on it: DAYBREAK INTERLUDE. With the vocal prowess that the group has and the instrumentals that are behind their iconic songs, it is only fit for this album to feature as one of the representatives of 2017.

Highlights: DAYBREAK INTERLUDE / In the meantime / Riskyな彼女 (Risky na Kanojo)


2018


Soma Saito “quantum stranger”

Another album that has been no stranger to this year’s Decade in Review features is Soma Saito‘s quantum stranger.

This album is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic releases of the decade – by how unique and complex it is, the wide variety of vocal performances and a showcase of a range that still has a lot of untapped talent, crafty lyrics, fancy instrumentals and a whole lot of flair by beating and setting records (currently best selling album by a male seiyuu). We dare say that this album non-intentionally set Saito as one of the most exciting solo artists out there. This was a poignant release that showed the genius and craftiness that goes inside the head of the talented singer-songwriter. And we enjoyed every moment of it in 2018.

Highlights: るつぼ (Rutsubo) / 光は水のよう (Hikari wa mizu no you) / 結晶世界 (Kessho Sekai).

Tetsuya Kakihara “I for U”

The last couple of years in this decade showed us a matured Tetsuya Kakihara. The talented seiyuu was embracing his jazz-rock and R&B imbued sound and was dazzling with each release.

When I for U was released in 2018, we could not believe that an album worthy of 5 starts across all songs was a thing. Song after song, after song. Kakihara was always there to perform and impress. He was doing so many new things in this album but what impacted the most was how challenging it was on the vocal end.

R&B and jazz completely took over this album but it was his take on a traditional Japanese themed song that completely took our breath away. 五月雨 (Go gatsu no ame) still sends chills down our spine every time it plays. If there is an album that should be instantly recommended to seiyuu fans, taking their first steps into the music side of the industry, is this one.

Highlights: 五月雨 (Go gatsu no ame) / Last Lady / 虹唄 (Niji uta)


2019


Thankfully, 2019 was a year abundant with great music. From pop to rock and R&B, there was plenty of exciting releases worthy of a mention in this feature.

OLDCODEX “LADDERLESS”

OLDCODEX‘s LADDERLESS won our hearts with their new formula. Rock and electronica fused to create a unique sound in which its totally okay for shredding guitars to share their spotlight with atmospheric synths.

The craft behind the songs’ composition, the lyrics, the symbolism behind tracks like Follow the Graph, Ta_2‘s vocals that are in peek form, the whole dark yet nostalgic vibe around this release.

It feels perfect. It is perfect. None of the band’s albums had that finishing masterpiece feel up until LADDERLESS came. Absolute masterclass by OLDCODEX.

Highlights: Parasite / Clock / Deeply Mind / falling down / Follow the Graph

Yuma Uchida “Horizon”

Equally in good form is Yuma Uchida, that has been establishing himself as one of the best solo pop acts among seiyuu.

The release of Horizon, Uchida’s first ever solo album and one of the best releases of the year, caught us off guard. It was expected that the album would follow the pop and R&B sound that was present in his singles. What we weren’t expecting was that the whole album would lean more towards pop-rock and R&B.

Horizon is an album that kicks off on a perfect note and ends on an even better one. Just the intro acapella – Harmony of waves – is enough to let the listener know that Uchida is not playing around in this album and the focus is going to be on his vocals.

This album features a wide variety of tunes that make great use of Uchida’s versatile vocals but, at the same time, are starting to show that a change in image and sound – towards a mature route – is due soon.

Highlights: Can you keep a secret? / ERROR / VIBES

Tasuku Hatanaka “FIGHTER”

Tasuku Hatanaka has improved at an impressive speed. Alongside Yuma Uchida, he is one of the most promising pop artists of this generation of seiyuu (born in the 90s), currently dominating the music industry among seiyuu. He is also making an interesting case for being crowned one of the best solo pop acts among seiyuu.

The energetic pop artist with a voice of gold managed to release an album that we did not expect would be so good.

FIGHTER put the talented singer and dancer on the spotlight, tacking fast paced, demanding pop tunes, R&B songs and a whole lot of electronica.

The album took the word “POP” to heart and is overflowing with it, but never forgetting to create unique soundscapes with tasteful takes on the music genre. A highlight in 2019 and certainly one of the best albums of the decade.

Highlights: FIGHTER / Fighting for… / Do it

Organized by release date, here are the Best Albums of the decade (2010-2019):


2010 | OLDCODEX “hidemind” / Showtaro Morikubo 叫~kyo~


2011 | Miyu Irino “Advance”


2012 | GRANRODEO “CRACK STAR FLASH” / OLDCODEX “Contrast Silver”


2013 | Mamoru Miyano “PASSAGE”


2014 | Toshiyuki Toyonaga “Music of the Entertainment” / Trignal “so funny” / GRANRODEO “Karma to Labyrinth”


2015 | Mamoru Miyano “FRONTIER”


2016 | Miyu Irino “DARE TO DREAM”


2017 | Shouta Aoi “0” / TRIGGER “REGALITY”


2018 | Soma Saito “quantum stranger” / Tetsuya Kakihara “I for U”


2019 | OLDCODEX “LADDERLESS” / Yuma Uchida “Horizon” / Tasuku Hatanaka “FIGHTER”


This feature completes our Decade in Review OP-ED series.

This is an original THTFHQ article. Decade in Review is an OP-ED series, meaning that all opinions expressed are of their authors only. All content featured on it is copyrighted to its rightful owners. Copy and paste and full translations of these articles is strictly forbidden.

 

Author: Vanessa Silva (midorin)

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Metalhead. Gamer. Based in Cascais, Portugal. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to start writing about male seiyuu music.

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