So everyone has a soundtrack for every moment of their life right? I’ve pushed this point forward in my two previous posts, and I should warn you that I intend to make it sort of a theme. All things can get pressed and parcelled into a song, and sometimes artists can embody a time, a theme or emotion in your life entirley. Today I bring you Shugo Tokumaru, whose sound if I were to pinpoint I’d say bedroom indie-pop. But if I were to get all personal on you folks (which I clearly enjoy doing far too much) i’d describe Tokumaru’s melodies as what would soundtrack those half-asleep morning dreams of springtime. Hazy, lush and sprinkled with details. So as May comes to an end, I’d like to share this very special artist with you all.
Tokumaru is overwhelming. His melodies are extremley listenable but oh so layered and fragile. With an assortment of instruments all fighting to make an impression in each verse his arrangments tend to give each songs a childlike and sincere quality exploding over a foundation of intense musical prowess. His voice too carries out a simular quality – young, soft and terribly earnest hiding a timeless sagaciousness that can only be heard when a song quietens down and takes a sombre dive. Shugo Tokumaru knows more than he lets on, all his music hints at something bigger and more profound than the simple joy the sounds of his notes offer. The song below is from his latest, and fifth full length album In Focus?, a happier and more cartoon coloured set than his prior 4.
I’m never sure how everyone feels about listening to music in other languages, it’s something i’ve done my whole life and I don’t think you ever truly see just how expansive melody can be till you dabble with music that isn’t the lingo you primarily speak. I don’t know a word of japanese – I mean theres snippets I’ve collected from an intense anime phase i went through during puberty (SHOUTOUT TO ALL DA BLEACH FANS), but Shugo’s 80’s french pop-esque tunes should be able to sway you from a one-language approach to music. I’ve always though that stories and emotions can be conveyed through the right vocal temperament and keys, and Shugo’s songs do just that. There’s a music box disposition to each song, much like a small consolidated little toy each piece is held together by a smorgasbord of sounds, movements and emotions. It’s genuinley pleasurable listening to Tokumaru. The playfullness of his notes, the sincerity at the heart of every melody and the dreamlike surrealism his take on japanese indie folk/pop leaves you with creates a space in which you as a listener are bound to get comfortable but constantly surprised by what you find.
Shugo’s actually reaaal special. And obviously I’ll say this about everyone I try to incept you all with, but I really mean it when I say Tokumaru has a really special place in my heart. I fangirled hard over this guys music, but how could I not? I found him at 14, when he still hadn’t gained much Western exposure and was only with the very tiny Compare Notes Records. But then because of some magical alligning of the cosmos he came to a small Montreal club in 2008 during my undergrad and I saw him. It was the simplest of performances, and perhaps a description of it can perfectly describe the ‘essence‘ of Tokumaru. Almost nobody at the club knew who he was, and after a truly horrific performance from a band whose name I have repressed deep into my subconscious a young man wearing a grey sweater and jeans climbed atop the small stage – barefoot, sat on a stool, looked upwards, closed his eyes and began playing. Tokumaru’s older stuff is heavy with string plucking and its definitely softer, so this particular performance unravelled like a Kyoto folk dream with one very honest ‘boy’ in the middle of a new country full of new people plucking a guitar and somehow convincing everyone in the room that whatever he was saying was beautiful, and that in between his hushed vocals there was a secret you needed to hear. Later on that night I may or may not have stolen his guitar pick and stalked him with a friend while simultaneously having a mental breakdown. Good stuff all around.
Theres magic in Shugo’s music and I hope you can hear it as starkly as I always have. Please check out his new album, but especially look into Night Piece (his endlessly beautiful debut) and L.S.T. – and for an old, instant eargasm, here.