February 20, 2013 by Daniel
I only heard about Shugo Tokumaru’s new album In Focus? earlier this morning, and I’ve already fallen in love with it. It’s a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection of thick, heavily-layered pop music, and it basically makes my heart melt every time I’ve listened to it (which, by the way, is three times and counting today). There are so many fantastic melodies on here and such a diverse range of tones, moods, and textures on display, that its saccharine, borderline “precious” brand of indie-pop music doesn’t even get on my nerves. Of course, there’s a distinct possibility that the reason for this is that I can’t understand any of the words since they’re all in Japanese.
But that’s also one of the things I really love about the record. See, some people feel the need to have lyrics that they can identify with in the music they listen to. It’s where many individuals feel that human connection, which actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it – the emotional effect that rhythm, melody, and harmony can have on people is mysterious and very difficult to quantify, especially for individuals not well-versed in music theory. And even with that training, it’s hard to explain in logical terms why a specific guitar lick makes you shudder, or a saxophone solo makes you cry, or a drum beat makes you dance. But words? Yeah, you can “get” words.
That being said, I’ve never been one of these people. I love a good line as much as the next guy, and in fact a lot of my favourite bands probably wouldn’t be so without their incredibly strong lyrical content. And on the flip side, outright bad lyrics can totally ruin a band for me (see: most of Weezer’s output since Pinkerton). But it’s never been something that’s “important” to me – as a drummer, my listening almost always gravitates towards the parts that sit below-the-surface of a particular song, so I barely pay attention to lyrics in the first place. This actually makes me feel guilty sometimes, because it seems like I’m just outright ignoring a big part of the song, which also just so happens to be the part where the musician is trying to “say something” outright.
But with Shugo, I never have to worry about any of that! I can just go on thinking that In Focus? is a concept album about a walrus wearing sunglasses or something, and no one other than the one or two Japanese-speakers I know can say anything about it. Besides, there’s a certain purity to being able to appreciate the basic phonetics of a word removed from any actual language context, which is what Sigur Ros has pretty much made a career out of. And most people like Sigur Ros, so I’ve proven my point!
Anyways, go buy In Focus? by Shugo Takamaru; it’s pretty fantastic.