I’m one of those music listeners, that, whenever I’m put in a situation where music is playing in the background I am always listening to it. Literally, cannot fully pay attention to anyone I’m with, even if it is a significant other or someone of interest, because I’m too involved in listening to whatever song is on. I’m also one of those people that knows if someone plays a song twice, or if a mix starts over, or even when a different person takes over for the music.
It’s kind of intense. Whatever.
Cue in me at Sephora about a month ago. As I was checking out, a song by a musician from Japan, Shugo Tokumaru, came on and I flipped out. I immediately started grilling the girl on who was in charge of music selection, where did they get this song, etc. She (sadly) told me it was internet radio but I was still very impressed. Which key words did you use, Sephora, to come up with such a cool playlist?
This guy is relatively unknown, especially in the states, but he’s still a pretty Westernized musician, in terms of folk-pop. Despite that, Shugo Tokumaru is known for being a multi-instrumentalist and possesses an adept understanding of the instruments he uses. His songs could easily be used in movie soundtracks <cough>. The fourth album released by him, Port Entropy (2010), takes on an even more playful sound than his 2008 release, Exit.
I have a huge soft spot for Japanese music as you’ll come to notice. Even though I can’t understand everything he’s saying, without the help of translations, it still makes me long for childhood. As a point, I make a habit of avoiding reading Pitchfork reviews of albums before I listen to them, just because I don’t want to taint my own interpretations of releases. The Jayson Greene review from October 2010, however, I did agree with – he makes the observation that, true to Japanese standards, the main catch of Port Entropy is its nostalgic value. You are constantly reminded of the past, without it being overly depressing (which Japanese music tends to morph into).
Off the album, the songs which gained the most recognition were “Tracking Elevator” and “Straw” but, for me, I fell in love with “Rum Hee” first and foremost. It definitely has more Japanese vibes than the previous two mentioned, but it was also very catchy. “Straw” and “Laminate” felt the most different from the rest of the songs which feel repetitive after awhile. “Laminate” was one of the coolest since right at the end you feel like you’re in Eastern Europe. “River Low” was also a favorite with its almost Ben Kweller vocal range, guitars, and folk-rockish drums.
A glaring problem with the overall aesthetic of the album is the predictability with each track. While solo musicians and producers are more than capable of creating a distinctive album with varied tracks, it’s not so much the case with Port Entropy. You can anticipate what Tokumaru will do next which doesn’t make me enjoy the album as a whole. From the vocals, to the guitar riffs, and even the drums, it’s all very straightforward. Not that every single song should stand out from one another (no flow no go) but there were so many throw aways from the album that it was near obnoxious.
If I had to give the album an overall rating, I’d sit it at a 6. My standards are high, so it’s not often that I’ll give high numbers to artists. The best way to listen to this album is on a playlist set at shuffle. You’ll enjoy the songs on its own, but not in context.
Check out Jayson Greene’s article here.