Shugo Tokumaru
Night Piece


4.5
superb

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
July 9th, 2008 | 42 replies | 12,316 views


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A gem worth seeking out.

Writing about Shugo Tokumaru or his music isn't necessarily difficult considering their demeanor. They both exhibit the kind of jubilance and catchiness that one expects from what is, more or less, a straightforward pop album, and it becomes almost irrelevant to judge the album on any sort of level beyond that.

One reason, of course, has a lot to do with the music itself, because Night Piece is a masterpiece. There isn’t another away around it; Tokumaru’s acclaimed but criminally overlooked debut (the first in what is becoming a rather mesmerizing career) is a brilliant example of songwriting and atmosphere, an indie pop album well versed in blanket electronics and melodic freak-folk. Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Tokumaru constructs Night Piece with a sense of substance in style that is consistently attributed to the country’s entertainment culture; if the Nintendo-inspired guitar chords to “Sleet” are any indication (think strolling through meadows on Zelda), Tokumaru spent more than his own fair share of time immersed in Tokyo’s gaming wonderland.

The other reason has more to do with the man himself. Wikipedia tells me that Tokumaru was born in 1980, is a Japanese songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and was a member of the pop rock band Gellers. Not a lot to go on, but anymore detail would just be superfluous; the real reveal is in Tokumaru’s music, his passion unwavering even as his emotions do. It’s hard to try to criticize a guy that seems so charming and good-natured, and he takes this charisma in stride. With another artist, the noises of dusk floating through an island breeze in “Such a Color” would play as just an effective intro of sorts. For Tokumaru, it encapsulates the song and sets the scene for the record's time and place, with layered string twiddling and tapping pervading the simply ukulele melody.

Even as the album’s opening statement, “Such a Color” would be a bright highlight on any album, but here it merely gets the ball rolling. At a blissful 25 minutes, Night Piece doesn’t leave a note to waste, testing the same formula again and again in different and, once you’ve got a handle on Tokumaru’s style, almost obvious ways. The lone electronica-based track, “Lantern On the Water,” seems like it will never run out of ideas, building upon warps in melody structure and tribal-tinged kitchen noises to create a tense and superb highlight, fading tenderly into the subtle nostalgia of “Sleet.” Most of the focus though is in livelier pop numbers, like the fiddling acoustic line-dance “Paparazzi” that bounces with such force that its one-minute running time can barely contain it.

Night Piece is at its best when Tokumaru allows the album to find personality and appeal in what can be considered “inaccessible” by popular, mainstream standards. “Funfair” is exactly what the title proclaims, a diluted lullaby controlled by a squeaky recorder and filtered through grainy vinyl trappings, while “The Mop” is one of the album’s most outright beautiful tracks, a rollicking western that helps bridge Night Piece stateside. “Typewriter” revels in its own funky attitude, the clanking metronome beating incessantly against the strained slides of an acoustic guitar, and its Tokumaru’s youthful, smooth voice that soothes out the edges. Tokumaru’s voice is such a presence that it feels as vital an instrument as any on the album, his careful enunciation providing a solid template for the busy instrumentation around him.

And busy is exactly what Night Piece is. Even “A Kite of Night,” the album’s closing acoustic ballad, seems to know its place, picking up in spurts only to fade slowly into silence not two minutes later. It makes for a rather fitting end to a simple pop album that feels like anything but. Now, as “A Kite of Night” ends for the fifth time tonight, I know wholeheartedly it will end again for the sixth. Night Piece calls for that kind of attention, magnifying glass or not. In a scene where acts like Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes are praised for their ability to take simple pop and make great music, it’s a one-man act from Tokyo that really manages to make it art.



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user ratings (48)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2008



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

your reviews are pretty much the only ones i read anymore

DFelon204409
Emeritus
July 9th 2008



3995 Comments


That intro didn't make one bit of sense.

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2008



6073 Comments


Better?

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 9th 2008



2806 Comments


Definitely going to check this out. Nice one.

Shadowskos
July 9th 2008



352 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review. I'm going to check this album out now.

londoncalling457
July 9th 2008



2565 Comments


I'm interested in this, where can I find it?

brandtweathers
July 10th 2008



2009 Comments


^(chan) ha. trying to decide the push for when lewis will get paid more to do what he does somewhere else.
any offers?This Message Edited On 07.10.08

Kage
July 11th 2008



1173 Comments


Yo lewis waddup man?

pixiesfanyo
July 12th 2008



1223 Comments


chorus of 'Light Chair' is the shit.

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 12th 2008



6073 Comments


I think "Lantern on the Water" is my favorite.

brandtweathers
July 12th 2008



2009 Comments


enjoy every one of your reviews but this seems desultory.
i take that back. it just comes across like it was a review you put very little effort into. namely by being so explicit with your procedure then attempting to play it out with a feeling of closure in the end

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2008



6073 Comments


what

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2008



16071 Comments


He was obviously really high when he posted that

brandtweathers
July 13th 2008



2009 Comments


ouch. simply put: i didn't like how you were so narrative with this review.
it was like a page from a diary where you talk about cds instead of a professional review. dm cause youre still the best. nuf said



note: also could you also field my comments on your sigur ros review. graciasThis Message Edited On 07.13.08

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2008



6073 Comments


It was the only way I thought I should describe the album. Being professional would
have taken out the fact that most of all I had fun listening to it.

edit: i said it in the review too

It’s not that it’s necessarily difficult to write about Shugo Tokumaru or his
music, both of which exhibit the kind of jubilance and catchiness that one expects
from what is, more or less, a straightforward pop album, but that it’s just easier to
get lost in what’s going on in the wonderful Night Piece rather than to stand over it
with a magnifying glass.
This Message Edited On 07.13.08

brandtweathers
July 13th 2008



2009 Comments


understood. felt thrown together regardless. i think its just hard to NOT hold you to a much higher standard (with backhanded compliments etc ect tec cet)
note: plus expressing how an album impacted you (having fun) is the essence of any review. Not necessarily the opposite of being professionalThis Message Edited On 07.13.08

plane
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2008



6073 Comments


i didn't say it was, just not how i wanted to approach this one

brandtweathers
July 13th 2008



2009 Comments


deal. seriously tho, do me a favor and respond to my comment on your sigur ros review

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2008



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

brandtweathers, get rid of your disgusting monk bowl cut and then we'll talk

brandtweathers
July 13th 2008



2009 Comments


my gosh... was that literally copied from a few weeks ago lol
the hair style has changed mind you



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