Review : Shugo Tokumaru - Exit
SputnikmusicAs I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my little part of the house. Years of use are present: the fading and drooping armchairs; the small pencil drawings on the wall; and the pins in various shapes and positions, a face smiling from the knee. What sounds like a backwards bagpipe is playing through the speakers in front of me, a pot banging from the kitchen in the background, and I feel more comfortable than I have for days. While I won’t dwell on the Issues that Plagued 07-08, I can tell you that finding myself in this room wasn’t a rare occurrence, listening to Shugo Tokumaru because maybe, I don’t know, he was so good to just trip out to, maaaaan, or Night Piece was the perfect way to come down off another long, summer day, or Exit got me get ready in the early mornings, even more so on the way to school. Not many albums inspire that kind of attention from me, fewer artists even, and Shugo Tokumaru manages to do just that. That I can’t understand Japanese seems pretty irreverent.
Craig Eley over at Cokemachineglow described Tokumaru this way: “Listening to Shugo is like watching a foreign film with the subtitles off. You can't ‘know’ what's being said (as if you can ‘know’ anything, man, shit), but you can ‘understand’ what's happening. You can feel. And at the end, you can say ‘that was delirious and beautiful and fun.’” More so than anything, this is what makes Exit Tokumaru’s best album to date (his "singles album" as opposed to his subdued, atmospheric debut), each song a different template and story. I’m not to assume the dirty, Nintendo-fronted acoustic bash “D.P.O.” is meant to be profound, but when the song guides its way to the softer, effect-laden “Hidamari,” Tokumaru’s falsetto-prone performance becomes poignant and palpable after the frustrated wails in “D.P.O.”...full text
PopmattersShugo Tokumaru is a 28-year-old Japanese musician and multi-instrumentalist you should have heard of, in some ideal world where exciting and unique pop songwriters get everyone excited. As it stands, this unassuming singer is hardly known outside of Japan, even though he’s previously released two charming chamber-pop albums, in 2004 and 2005. (His debut album, Night Piece, sold only 500 copies in the U.S.) Exit, Tokumaru’s third album, was originally released in October of last year in Japan, which made for three albums in four years—a laudable output for any musician, let alone one with a full-time band as well as his solo work. His band, a noisy outfit called Gellers, also released an eponymous debut last year. Thankfully, Exit, is getting a (slightly) wider release thanks to Almost Gold Records. We should make the most of it as this is great stuff.
A note on that language. Exit is entirely – as far as I can tell – sung in Japanese. Most of the song titles are English, and there’s one part of “Parachute” where Tokumaru slides down what sounds like “pra-shu” but may in fact be the English of the title. But apart from these fleeting instances, the language of the album is Japanese; the language’s straightforward vowels seem well suited to the floating choruses and syncopated delivery. Irrespective of biography and language, the album has a sunny, refreshing optimism that hardly feels out of date....full text
SpinTreating his Mac like a sonic sandbox, this Tokyo-raised studio maestro conjures a childlike wonderland, flaunting classic-grade pop tunes that incorporate more than 50 (!) instruments, most of which he plays himself. Tokumaru counters the tweeness of his Japanese-language croon (plus the unrelenting innocence of his twinkly, trebly melodies) with arrangements that densely interweave oddly organic twittering to suggest psychedelia without ever stooping to its cliches. Chances are you haven't heard anything like it since your last kindergarten jam session....full text
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