Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Album Review: "Exit" by Shugo Tokumaru

I think I might forego doing numerical ratings for my album reviews here, because clearly, I'm only writing about the ones I like anyway. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I liked Exit by Shugo Tokumaru quite a bit. Maybe even a 10. I didn't think there would be an album to challenge TV on the Radio's Dear Science for my favorite album of the year, but here it is. (Stay tuned for the results of that contest.)

Shugo Tokumaru is a Japanese multi-instrumentalist who has shockingly little biographical information on his Wikipedia page. After this album, he deserves to be a star. Even though I'm Japanese, most Japanese music doesn't appeal to me. This album is different. Way different. It has  opened my mind to a whole new kind of rock music that is exciting to say the least.

Tokumaru's sound is filled with acoustic instruments and organic sound effects accompanying his sweet, high pitched Japanese pop crooning. It's definitely aptly labelled as psychadelic, but it doesn't use the typical psychadelic techniques like trippy electric guitar and electronic sounds. It acheives its trippiness with haunting harmonies, droning acoustic instrumentation, lots of out-of-tune bells, and other natural-sounding effects that remind me of an acid trip in the woods of Bambi.

There isn't a loser on this album. The highlights are "Green Rain," with its complex rhythms and its use of all the instruments you'd expect to find in the closet of an elementary school music classroom; "Clocca," mystically dissonant pop song; "DPO," a dizzying romp that sounds like a punk song played with a ukelele and a Fisher Price xylophone; and "Wedding," which opens with a beautiful banjo (or steel guitar?) part that gives way to a frantically joyous refrain of the same melody.

This is one of those albums that makes me happy that I am a fiend for finding new music. It's not likely that I'd have found this if I was even slightly less obsessive about music. I can't imagine an album like this existing and my never hearing it. Sadly, there are probably many such albums, and I'm not obsessed enough to find them all. But Exit is the kind of prized find that will sustain my interest in digging through the obscure, because it is a true gem of an album.

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