At some point this fall, Make Believe Melodies turned ten. I’d known this decade milestone was looming — mainly because 2019 also marked my tenth anniversary of moving to Japan to work in the countryside teaching English to bored teenagers “for a year or two, tops” — and toyed around with ways to celebrate. Then life happened and…forget marking the occasion, even updating this blog fell to the wayside.
I wish I could point to some sharp and biting reason for this — Blogging is dead! Music journalism is on life support! Just like what you like, man! — but the real reason is far more boring. Life simply got in the way. I had a kid, work became far more outsized even before that became a reality and time suddenly became scarce in a way I never would have imagined when I started this in 2009 between repeat-after-me drills in far-off Mie. I’m thankful for all the above, but to make it work the starting point had to suffer (to the point I’m actually blogging about most of the same artists I would here over at Otaquest now because…well, that pays, and this has always been a not-for-profit site, first for personal beliefs but now because I have zero idea who would advertise for something like this).
All fall, I knew I still wanted to do this annual exercise — which, if you are new (welcome, thanks for reading that intro which probably confused you!) entails me, the only person working on Make Believe Melodies save for the few people who take pity on me to help with the WordPress nitty gritty, highlighting my personal favorite Japanese albums of the year. Thing is, I’m not sure what comes next. I’ve told myself “this is the week I find more time to blog” for most of the last three months, and then that tumbles down a chute. I’ve started seriously wondering if this site’s time has come…or, at the very least, having it mutate into something different, whether that’s fewer posting or becoming something else entirely (get in on the newsletter boom before that crashes?).
What keeps making me feel pangs of guilt and still pushes me to want to get back on this, however, is surveying Japanese music in 2019. I haven’t encountered a year as stacked for the country’s musical output in my time living in the country, to the point where I seriously came close to going wild and making this 100. Then I realized that the world probably doesn’t need to know Tacoyaki Rainbow made my 98th favorite release of the year and kept it a tad tighter. Still, so much fantastic stuff came out this year both on the top level of J-pop and in the indie-adjacent spaces this site primarily covers that I went into list season not having two or three favorites for the top spot, but closer to 11. On top of that…and here’s some industry side-eyeing for those seeking a touch of the dramatic…I believe English-language coverage of non-English music has mostly gotten worse over the decade since I started out, save for maybe Spanish-language music and some corners of K-pop (though…that’s a whole different door to open up). Congratulations to CHAI (on my list) and Otoboke Beaver (#54…told you it was cutthroat!) for grabbing Western attention, but there’s so much more happening here just totally ignored on a wider scale that deserves to be screamed about, even if it’s coming from some small dorky digital corner of the web. I guess my voice hasn’t gone out yet, at least.
Which brings us back to what I say every year…follow along, listen and see if you find something you love that normally wouldn’t hit your radar.