This year was quite a dry one as far as my writing went. I’ve never been much of one for pitching articles to magazines in the first place — I’ve never really got over the nagging sense that writing about music is a stupid thing to do and feel silly begging for money to do it — and increasingly the conversation about music in Japan is one that has little need for my contribution anyway. Instead of worrying about whether my words are helping whatever media outlet it is meet their targets for mage views and engagement, it’s far less stressful to retreat from those anxieties and simply write about what I want on my Clear And Refreshing blog.
Writing is work. I mean that in the sense that it's literally my job that pays for the food I eat and the roof over my head, but also in a more abstract sense — even the decision to use an em dash just before this part of the text instead of a colon or semicolon was tiresome and triggered its own mild drizzle of self-loathing. And zoom out to a wider panorama and writing is exhausting; it's where I try to order, make sense of and explain my thoughts about myself and the world, and then once I'm done with it, I stick my name on it like the pompous ass I am and announce, "Here is my wisdom, World: drink deep and rejoice!" Who needs that? No one, and probably not even me. It's tiring. It's work.
Which is fine, because the flip-side of work is play. In any case, a fair amount of my work — the work that gets published with my name on it at least — is really not much more than finding ways
of justifying all the playing I do with a patina of intellectual respectability. And I'm extremely lucky that at the end of 2020 I still have work of any kind, and especially that it's the sort
that I can do from the safety of my room. So if that new reality of life and work spent shut in a small room didn't really change my work, it had a big effect on my play.
Japanese alternative music and culture magazine Ele-king, for whom I'm an occasional contributor, just published their winter issue, featuring their year-end albums roundup. They asked me to contribute a personal top 10, and while my personal favourites and their rankings are always fluid, this list gives a fair sense of the kinds of thing I enjoyed and listened to a lot this year. The magazine only has the list and a short comment though, so just in case anyone wants to read in a bit more depth, here's the same list with short reviews of each album.
It’s lunchtime in Tokyo and my Gmail account is malfunctioning. Someone is trying to send me a document for work but I can’t download it. A little part of me rejoices: thanks to this technological malfunction, I’m able to spend the afternoon writing for myself, insulated from the sorts of work emails that people feel entitled to invade my personal time with whenever they feel like it.
There’s also a nagging worry though, as I scroll through my Twitter feed, seeing people freaking out over this sudden outage that has denied them access to their Google Drive, email account, documents, or any of the other endlessly expanding range of Google services that our lives increasingly depend on. There’s a more personal edge to that nagging worry for me too, because Gmail is the only direct line of contact I have with my mother, almost ten thousand kilometres away in Bristol in the UK.