Courtesy of Amazon.com
Shugo Tokumau – “Parachute”
On the international stage, the state of Japanese entertainment is rather unfortunate. Breaking into the Western limelight is difficult, especially when Americans expect Japanese film and music to possess a certain amount of restraint and conservatism. For example, Japanese films are assumed to be about one of two things: respectful samurai protecting their ways of old or overgrown lizard-robots terrorizing some fleeing pre-pubescent sounding men.
Similarly, Japanese music today consists of either classic Japanese arrangements or assembly line pop aimed at imitating boy bands of 10 years ago. Due to this standard, it is rare that a Japanese artist breaks any musical barriers in their own country, let alone breaking into the American indie music scene.
Yet Shugo Tokumaru has done just that. With an eclectic blend of more than 50 instruments, arranged with a perfectionist’s eye, Tokumaru creates complex compositions that rival American folk artists like Sufjan Stevens and The Magnetic Fields while still retaining elements of his Japanese homeland.
Tokumaru, who has released several albums in Japan, had his latest album, Exit, released internationally. The singer-songwriter combines instruments like guitars, drums, accordions, xylophones and violins, as well as vocals in both Japanese and English. His sound feels euphoric, psychedelic and folksy, contributing a tone that is both uniquely Japanese and universally accessible.
From the start of “Parachute,” the opener and a standout track on Exit, the listener is assaulted with whimsical bells and carefully placed bass guitars. This three-minute song is packed with so many sounds and notes, it is almost overwhelming. Perhaps this is overcompensation to gain attention from the American indie scene, or perhaps it is just Tokumaru showing off all his talent. Yet the all the instruments are tied together with a joyous mood and Japanese lyrics that are so exotic and unique that it is hard to find fault with much of his work.
Other later tracks on Exit, like “Hidamari” and “La La Radio,” serve as interludes that connect the album as a whole, implementing melodies and phrases from songs earlier in the album. Overall, Exit is a beautifully constructed Japanese album for a world audience. The album is as epic as Godzilla, as composed as a samurai, and just as innovative as any other American indie album out today.
by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf