Shugo Tokumaru plays more instruments than you.
Japanese singer-songwriter Shugo Tokumaru’s been making albums since 2004’s Night Piece, but the pop-minded musical genius started turning heads in recent years with his cover of Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” His latest is this year’s In Focus?, a 15-track collection that layers instruments like noodles on lasagna — and yes, we meant “genius.” One listen to Tokumaru’s kaleidoscopic songs and it’s clear he’s operating on another level: “Katachi” alone combines acoustic guitar and vocals with mallet percussion, whistles, accordion, and more intricate examples we can’t quite identify. If “Toy Story 4” needs a setting, Tokumaru’s studio sounds like the place. His musical range comes packaged with his gift for sun-kissed melodies: Tracks such as “Decorate” and 2010 single “Lahaha” are as exuberant as a puppy chasing a butterfly.
Listen to Shugo Tokumaru after the jump.
With his fifth album out now on Polyvinyl, Tokumaru seems ready at last to conquer the rest of the world. He made his first SXSW appearance last week, playing parties for Brooklyn Vegan, We Listen for You, and even at the convention center Day Stage — a spot also occupied by the likes of Vampire Weekend and Iron & Wine during the marathon music festival. Seeing Tokumaru play isn’t unlike watching a whirlwind. By the time you’ve caught on to his first riff, he’s already clicked his loop pedal and started adding the next. Good thing he writes ballads, too.
+ Listen to Shugo Tokumaru.
Photo credit: David Greenwald