Review Summary: Yet another chance to tumble lovingly into the quirky mind of Shugo Tokumaru.
There is a principal in biology called the “Red Queen Hypothesis” that states that something could potentially evolve to maintain the place that it has always been. There’s change, for sure, but nothing in the way of taking the organism outside of its established niche. Oddly enough, this correlates to Shugo Tokumaru and his approach to the lovely music he creates. Throughout his career, Tokumaru has essentially remained in a stasis. No grand changes in direction or bold uncharacteristic statements appear anywhere in his discography. Instead, the Japanese songwriter has tinkered a bit with the mechanics of his work, but ultimately has stayed exactly where he has always been. Luckily, that place is exactly where he belongs.
, for the initiated, is a Shugo Tokumaru record through and through. What that entails is quite a lot, actually, as the artist crams in a mind boggling amount of sights and sounds into the record. Each of the album's 15 tracks features an average of 20 instruments with hundreds of recorded tracks. Per the usual, it’s a quirky, fun, and sweetly produced mixture of Tokumaru’s folk and pop sensibilities; a magical amalgam that sounds bigger than anything he’s done before. Nailing down every single facet is nigh impossible as a bevy of instruments fill the space, never allowing for a hint of silence to break through. While this may seem a bit busy, one finds themselves sprinting to keep up only to be wonderfully exasperated at everything to be found. Tons of percussion and unconventional instruments are used ingeniously, and as always, Tokumaru absolutely stuns with his complex guitar delivery. Once again, the artist shows a penchant for bringing together tons of elements into a perfectly executed package.
With his fifth record, Shugo Tokumaru has shown that he need not surprise his listeners with any grand displays or attention grabbing gestures. Instead, it’s the sublime chorus in “Circle,” the total silliness of “Pah-Paka,” and the sheer intensity of “Micro Guitar Music” that once again displays his genius. That being said, In Focus?
is far and away his boldest record to date. Choruses are more explosive and it all has a much more boisterous pop feel to it. Yet underneath the added girth is the same core that has been present in every one of the musician’s offerings to date. Thankfully, it is more than enough reason to delve once again into Tokumaru’s quirky saccharine mind.