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Tokyo, Japan

The Elusive Charm of Tokyo’s Shugo Tokumaru

The Elusive Charm of Tokyo’s Shugo Tokumaru

Japan's indie-folk savant sings in dreams, and his new album is beyond cozy.

By Halley Bondy
January 4, 2013

Name: Shugo Tokumaru

Where he’s from: Tokyo, Japan

When he started: 2003

Genre: Indie-folk, indie-pop

Most Similar: The Beatles, Sufjan Stevens, New Pornographers

Sounds Like: Sunshine and best friends

Shugo Tokumaru is hardly new to the game, nor is he a novice when it comes to charming the daylights out of the callous blogosphere. His penchant for gorgeous harmonies, endless folk instruments and understated but beautiful visuals has been putting smiles on hardened faces for a decade. Now, almost six albums deep, he’s yet to betray us with anything cheesy or even overt, and this is despite the use of 20 instruments and a zoetrope on his new album In Focus? 

Shugo — a pianist, singer, ukelelist, and general everything-ist — says he writes songs and melodies based on his dreams and records them alone. It all makes you want to borrow his subconscious…it’s clearly made of delicate patterns and glee you haven’t felt since childhood, unfettered by the crap of the world. It’s also  pan-cultural: while the lyrics are always in Japanese, his clapping rhythms and percussion have roots everywhere from the Caribbean to states. It’s also a no-brainer, when you listen to his new single “Decorate,” that he grew up listening to the Beatles.

Shugo Tokumaru has been interviewed many times throughout the course of his career, yet he’s a shy, solitary fellow who holds it all pretty close to his vest. He remains one of those untainted introspective gems that float in and out of our lives, with the occasional commercial hit (his 2010 album Port Entropy made it into Japan’s top 40), and when he’s around, he’s lulling us all into a wondrous sleep.

Watch his new zoetrope-style video for “Decorate” below. For more, check out his new single “Katachi,” which you can stream here. Look out for In Focus? out January 22 on Polyvinyl.

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