“Exit” is Shugo Tokumaru’s first album since switching from a tiny indie label to the larger P-Vine Records, but the move hasn’t been accompanied by any compromise of the bedroom-music aesthetic that made his previous albums “L.S.T.” and “Night Piece” so beguiling.
The melodies are cut from a similar cloth to former Beach Boy Brian Wilson and Japanese songwriter/producer Eiichi Ohtaki. Like these artists, Tokumaru’s production and arrangements stretch and twist traditional pop formula. Take “Button,” where the catchy melody takes a back seat to a series of looped handclaps and metallic clanks. Elsewhere, Tokumaru demonstrates his proficiency with other genres on the bluegrass-inspired “Wedding” and quirky instrumental “Future Umbrella,” which sounds like the perfect soundtrack to the Soviet-era children’s animation “Cheburashka.”
Tokumaru isn’t the strongest of vocalists, preferring to sing in little more than a whisper for much of the album. So it’s left to his often breathtaking acoustic guitar playing (check out the opener “Parachute”) and array of instruments to give the album texture. With its musical saw and electric guitars “La La Radio,” for example, recalls Mercury Rev, with more and varied instruments joining the mix as it builds to its climax. Tokumaru plays Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo on Dec. 6-9 (see shugotokumaru.com for details).