In his Strange Boutique column last week, Ian Martin wrote about the need for a canon in Japanese music in order for newcomers to the scene — especially those writing about it — to gain some context into what is being released.

Without a canon, non-Japanese journalists who write about Japanese musicians can fall into the trap of labeling a group such as Babymetal "whacky," when there are much deeper issues going on behind the scenes. Or focusing on Man With a Mission's "wolf mask gimmick," when it may be an inventive way for salarymen to keep from getting into trouble at their day jobs.

It's most important to remember, though, that behind all the gimmicks and costumes, Japanese bands are striving to produce art in the face of a dwindling market. Therefore, taking some time out to revisit talented artists isn't just enjoyable — you could say it's our duty. Or, you could say it's just a way for us to take a week off from interviews. In any case, here are the Music Page contributors' favorite albums of the year so far.