2023 in Review: Underrated Albums that Deserve More Love

Despite being relatively quiet, 2023 had plenty of high-quality music being released. But the spotlight couldn’t be on all of them.

It’s time to make things right and shed light on the hidden gems of 2023.

Music that deserves all the love it can get. It seems like this is a recurrent theme but as the seiyuu music industry gets increasingly crowded, this will continue to happen to various 2D music projects, groups, solo artists, bands, and units.

It is impossible to get the spotlight on every single CD released. In 2023, over 300 CDs by male seiyuu artists, bands, seiyuu units, and 2D groups (including bands, idols, and hip-hop crews) were released.

The sheer number of 2D groups and 2D music projects makes it so that those who suffer the most from lack of exposure are themselves.

Seiyuu artists take quite a bit of time until they have a loyal following for their music and, at times, depending on how soon or late their debut was, they may never get to rise in popularity, something that overshadows the sheer quality they may bring to their music.

In this feature, however, you will dive into 7 – out of the various – underrated CDs released in 2023.

These CDs deserve more love. In some cases, they struggled to sell well in their physical editions, others were a blur among international fans whereas others were from big names but a couple of hiccups or a packed month of releases with even more talent put them in the backseat.

Regardless of what happened, I bring you 7 CDs filled with quality music, interesting experiences and performances, and a whole lot of talent on the vocal end.

A note that this is a highly subjective article featuring my picks for CDs that went under the radar in 2023. Perhaps you have a different opinion on some of the entries or believe other CDs were even more underrated than these.

If that is the case, I invite you to leave your suggestions in the comments as those may be a starting point for a new fan reading this feature as well.

These CDs are all highly recommended and there may be some that suit your tastes and others that don’t. So check this feature, choose the entries that piqued your interest, and have fun!

The entries in this feature are NOT RANKED.

Loulou*di “NOTHING”

Loulou*di "NOTHING"

Those who follow my reviews here at The Hand That Feeds HQ or even on the SEIYUU LOUNGE podcast will be aware that I am a big advocate of Loulou*di.

And it is with a good reason. There is no group like them out there. No other 2D group that either sounds or feels like Loulou*di does.

The quality of their music, the vocals, and the unreal matchup of Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Shunsuke Takeuchi, and Daiki Yamashita with the genius composer Takeshi Hama make this group soar. But that’s not all, storytelling plays a big role in their music and how the listener ends up interacting with their music.

In 2023, the group released “NOTHING”, one of the 3 CDs released in the year within the THINK OF ME CD series.

And it was mindblowing.

Despite the abstract nature of the concept, “NOTHING” comes to life through a collection of songs that leave a unique impression and beckon listeners to return for more. 

The performances, particularly in these desolate soundscapes, are exceptional. With minimal elements at play, the trio’s voices stand out, crafting “beautiful” nightmares amidst the darkness. 

After all these months, “NOTHING” keeps on impressing me for how a seemingly “abstract” concept gained life in such a beautiful yet tragic way. 

Loulou*di delivers haunting performances that linger with the listener long after the music ends. I know for sure that I am still talking about it to this day.

Takuya Eguchi “PIZZA SUSHI Planet Walking”

Takuya Eguchi “PIZZA SUSHI planet walking”
Regular edition

Takuya Eguchi has been searching for a sound, style, and voice that is unique to himself as a solo artist and it seems that in “PIZZA SUSHI planet walking”, he found it.

Despite the quirky title, this single is filled with interesting songs, different sides to Takuya Eguchi as a solo artist, and best of all, a sound and voice that sounds more comfortable than ever.

PIZZA SUSHI planet walking” is characterized by its relaxed and mature vibes. 

It showcases the gradual growth of a solo artist right before his fans’ eyes and ears, leaving me filled with anticipation for what’s to come in the next CDs. 

This single shows that Takuya Eguchi is carving out his unique identity as a solo artist, setting himself apart from his previous work in 2D music projects as well as his first 2 solo CDs. 

His delivery, distinctive style, and evident confidence in this release serve as promising indicators that he may have discovered his artistic voice. 

To add to this, the fusion of clean, emotive singing and stylish, laidback rap alongside his warm, mid-toned vocals is a perfect match that shines and that I want to hear more of in the future. 

This single may have gone under the radar for many people but for me, it was one of the highlights, if not of the year itself, at least in Takuya Eguchi’s solo career.

Gakuto Kajiwara “Jinsei no Life”

Gakuto Kajiwara "Jinsei no Life"
Regular edition

While I was expecting something more substantial coming from Gakuto Kajiwara, what he delivered with “Jinsei no Life” was more than enough to bring this album into the list of underrated releases in 2023.

Yes, this is a conventional CD.

Yes, there is nothing impressive going on in here.

Yes, Gakuto Kajiwara could have shown much more to his fans.

But was it really necessary to do something out of the box? Was it necessary to be impressive at any given moment? Isn’t Gakuto Kajiwara’s whole thing as a solo artist to release feel-good music with an acoustic touch?

Well, “Jinsei no Life” is, as a whole, an album that feels like a warm blanket on a cold day.

It is comforting, sweet and warm. Its weaknesses are easily noticeable if you listen to each of the songs out of context but as a whole, this is a rock solid album with a laser focus on the concept, vibes, and quality of the singing being consistent throughout.

You hardly can find an album in 2023 with this much focus and execution that goes to the littlest detail to make sure everything worked.

Once again, while not groundbreaking – even within Kajiwara’s repertoire – “Jinsei no Life” is an album that deserved and deserves more love.

Anthos* “FAKE”

Anthos* “Regret”

Embracing their dreamy and atmospheric sound while adding a mature layer of grooviness, Anthos* is truly at the top of their game with “FAKE”.

I wrote this when I reviewed this album and honestly, I still stand by those words.

Anthos* – much like Loulou*di – ticks all the right boxes for me when it comes to what a 2D group should have: good vocals (focusing on quality instead of star power), storytelling-driven music (which consistently ties up with the story, the characters and world in which this group is inserted) as well as unique music (not necessarily following trends but instead perfectly tying up all the good parts in this group).

Anthos* continues to impress and mature with each release, and “FAKE” is everything and more I could have asked from them.

The groovy vibes were taken to a whole new level. Their ethereal chillout EDM sound blended with tropical house and disco influences, making the leading track “Fake Veil,” an absolute banger ready for the dancefloor.

 “Regret,” on the other hand, is a whole different experience. An experience I fell in love with. An experience I want to relive again. And again.

I’ve talked extensively about how this was one of the songs that instantly caught my attention – and is one of the best of 2023 – but I feel it’s never enough to mention it. From the unique surprises on the vocal end to the improvements in their compositions, better suiting the evolving vocals by all members, in this song you won’t stop being surprised.

“FAKE” easily ranks among Anthos*’s top releases, once again featuring a majestic b-side track that surpasses the leading track. Embracing their dreamy and atmospheric sound while adding a mature layer of grooviness, Anthos* is truly at the top of their game in this album and I would have loved that more people would have found it as charming and groundbreaking as I did.

Makoto Furukawa “Place your bets”

Makoto Furukawa "Place Your Bets"

I feel like, whenever I mention jazz music, I lose all the attention in the room – as it is a niche music genre, usually much more complex than your average pop or rock tune.

And I feel like this is a big reason that, up until Makoto Furukawa released “Place your bets”, he sort of struggled to sell above 5.000 copies of his CDs.

Thankfully, things changed around drastically. This single sold 10.000 copies and is, to this moment, the best-selling CD in his repertoire.

Over the past five years, Makoto Furukawa’s fans have been treated to a unique journey through mature love, dark emotions, powerful performances, distinct soundscapes, and stories that leave us yearning for more. 

All, or almost all, with stories written by Makoto Furukawa which cranks up the excitement for his music as nothing beats music that has direct input from the artists themselves.

Furukawa’s singing style has matured considerably, with his voice naturally deepening over time. However, this change hasn’t deterred him from exploring uncharted areas of his range. 

Now sporting a resonant vibrato, a seductive falsetto, and some skill and control in his higher register, Furukawa adds more emotion and variety to his performances, ensuring his music remains captivating while allowing him to venture into different territories. 

“Place your bets” encapsulates Furukawa’s musical journey thus far while radiating a hopeful tone of continuation. It ignites anticipation for the upcoming releases in his career.

And while it sold 10.000 copies – mostly a result of fans purchasing two or more copies to get access to the tickets for his 1st live show – I still feel that this single deserved much, much love. 

Seeing how much he has grown and how he closed a 5-year chapter in the best way, Makoto Furukawa is certainly ready to do something different and even more exciting in the future.

And I’m all in for it!

Daiki Yamashita “from here”

Daiki Yamashita “from here”

Released early into 2023, Daiki Yamashita’s “from here” took on an interesting approach that may have put off some listeners while bringing hope to others who still – like myself – want to hear Yamashita show his vocal prowess.

Yes. “from here” can be a bit bland and uneventful at times.  But it has its charm and quality, which bring it to this list.

The album showcases Yamashita’s versatility as a singer by incorporating various music genres. 

The standout tracks in the album are “Akatsuki” and “Standing Strong,” which serve similar purposes of opening and closing the album. This hint of a concept or a story with a start, a middle, and an end, got me excited for a minute even though the album doesn’t necessarily have a strong, well-defined concept at its core.

In this album, you can still tell that Yamashita continues to play it safe on the vocal end with controlled, mid-toned led performances, with barely any vibrato, falsetto, or head voice.

Yamashita’s sound doesn’t follow a specific direction in this album, which can be either intentional as he aims to be a versatile solo artist, or he has yet to find his sound. 

Similarly, he’s still far from the quality fans have come to know him for as a singer for 2D groups such as Loulou*di.

All in all, “from here” offers variety, but it also highlights Yamashita’s hesitance in approaching his music. He’s still searching for his direction sound-wise and voice-wise as a solo artist.

While time will bring these pieces together, the album is not a massive upgrade in terms of quality compared to his previous releases but still an entry worth checking out, if not because you’re curious, then because you may enjoy character development, which I hope we will get in future releases.

IDOLiSH7 Franchise “BLACK or WHITE 2022″

IDOLiSH7 Franchise “BLACK or WHITE 2022″

And wrapping up this feature is “BLACK or WHITE 2022” album by the IDOLiSH7 franchise released in the first months of 2023.

“BLACK or WHITE 2022” is an album that presents the battle for the crown of best in the IDOLiSH7 franchise. 

The album contains four sets, each with a unique lineup, dynamics, sound, and concepts. This, all by itself, was never done by another 2D or mixed media project out there.

ZOOL’s 4-song set is powerful and aggressive, with an urban, rock-inspired undertone. Their new song “UTOPIA” is ethereal yet still retains the group’s edgy vibe. ZOOL’s set ends on a powerful note, signaling their intent to win the crown. 

IDOLiSH7’s set is comfortable, but not impressive, with only “Mr. Affection” and “TOMORROW EViDENCE” carrying significant power. 

TRIGGER’s 4-song set is the strongest in the album, with ambitious and cohesive performances that make the perfect bridge between each other. Their new song “BE AUTHENTIC” is one of their sexiest pop tunes to date. 

Re:vale’s set brings back their old and new sound, including their representative high-tension dance tunes and a funky jazz-rock tune. The new track “YOUR RHAPSODY” is interesting and unique. 

The album is a must-listen for long-time fans and newcomers alike, as it showcases each group’s strong identity and growth.

And honestly, it deserves more love.

Looking back at these albums – and even checking the pile of CDs I still have left to review from 2023 -, there was a lot of quality out there.

Male seiyuu artists and 2D groups keep on improving their skills, releasing new CDs in which they impress with their growth.

Some decided to try new things – and were met with some resistance -, whereas others played it too safe and some fans simply didn’t end up clicking with them.

But still, there was a lot of quality in 2023. And it is frustrating how some male seiyuu artists and 2D groups – with a lot of quality and innovative sound – don’t get the love that “mainstream” projects or artists get.

I would love to change that. Alas, I’m but one person who loves music and doesn’t really have the power to change things.

What I have power over though is of this feature. To put the spotlight on artists and 2D groups that deserve much more love and attention.

But they aren’t the only ones. There are many more that deserve your attention. As always, I tend to create yearly playlists of the best songs to put the spotlight on everything that deserves (And is actually available on Spotify).

Do give those a listen if you can. Perhaps you will find your next favorite song in there or a new artist or 2D group to check!

Which albums released in 2023 by male seiyuu or 2D groups do you feel like are underrated? Share those in the comments!

You can find all the content in this feature on episode 179 of SEIYUU LOUNGE, The Hand That Feeds HQ’s official weekly podcast in video format.

If you prefer content on the go, you can also find the content in this feature in the sound-only version of SEIYUU LOUNGE.

You can find the podcast on the following platforms

For media, PR, and business enquiries, please email me at: info@handthatfeedshq.com

Vanessa Silva
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder, content creator, and music reviewer. Basically, the only person managing everything at The Hand That Feeds HQ. Stumbling upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" in 2011 was the start of this journey. If music is thought-provoking or deep, you may find her writing almost essays (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). She's the producer and host of the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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