Port Entropy (P Vine Records, 2010)
For: Sufjan Stevens, Pastels/Tenniscoats, Miki Odagiri
Byline: Japanese multi-instrumentalist flexes his songwriting muscles to the max in this endlessly fun, gloriously upbeat and optimistic album of which you won’t understand a word
*Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from inyourspeakers, LLC. Please read full review here.*
Hi there! How are you? It’s so good to see you! My day? Well, thanks for asking! Yeah, my day was good. You know, the Gulf of Mexico is spewing oil at an unsettling rate, and has been for well over a full month now. President Obama just ordered a bunch of troops to the border to monitor illegal immigration. That’s pretty cool. Also, the stocks fell today! I got yelled at by my boss at work again—sales are down for the company for about the sixth month straight! Oh! And I listened to this Port Entropy album by Shugo Tokumaru, like, five times straight. So, me? Yeah, life is good... life is just great! How could it be bad?
What’s that? You feel rotten? Down in the dumps? You feel like life is caving in all around you? You don’t know where to turn? Well my buddy, my chum, my pal... I don’t blame you. But hey now, there are steps you can take toward a sunnier, happier life, and one of them is to listen to this music—these accordions, toy pianos, ukeleles, steel drums, glockenspiels, strings and more; these sugary-sweet melodies, these upbeat poly-rhythms, these playful stoccato patterns and floating acoustical musings. You can, and you will, smile. You’ll smile wide; ear-to-ear, goofy-looking, shit-eating grins, that’s what you’ll have. I don’t have a single clue in the world what this Tokumaru fellow, this Japanese multi-instrumentaling, indie folk-pop, singer/songwriting guy is saying to me in my headphones. He could be telling me to go to hell. He could be telling me to purse-nap the next little old lady I see walking down the street. Somehow, though, these scenarios are very doubtful. Take “Lahaha,” and “Rum Hee”—a one-two punch that represents the musical equivalent of laughter itself. To listen to Port Entropy is to know Shugo Tokumaru as little more than the sweet, sensitive, effortlessly jubilant young man he likely is. He wants you to feel better, look outside at the gorgeous spring weather, go swimming, eat an ice cream cone, and above all enjoy your life, because it is beautiful.
Port Entropy opens with “Platform,” a short instrumental piece that fades in softly, as in a morning sunrise over a rolling prairie landscape before the entire environment comes to life with banjos, synths and a stately tempo. The instruments, which are many, varied, and all excellently performed (instantly recalling the work of Sufjan Stevens), take on certain personalities within Port Entropy’s careful and manifold song arranging. They assemble an animated, bubbly cast of cartoon characters that skitter and dance about the album’s more upbeat numbers. Sometimes, the resulting effect is a bit much, like in the closing seconds of “Laminate,” which ends the beautifully sentimental ballad with a quirky xylophone scale that almost trips over itself with excitement. But on the whole, these instruments are chosen carefully and wisely, providing a full and lush backdrop for Tokumaru’s breezy songwriting to sit in a warm, and comfortable nest of sound....
...I’ll admit, my last two experiences with Japanese culture have not been quite so upbeat. First was my renting of, watching of, and subsequently bawling over Louis Psihoyos’ compelling and excellent, yet completely depressing documentary about the Japanese dolphin industry, “The Cove.” Next was “Battle Royale,” a sunny little tale about a Japanese government who forces a middle school class of children to fight to the death on a deserted island using various weaponry with brutally grotesque results. Yeah, that one improved my outlook. The point (not that these two films in any way represent some overarching doomsday aesthetic for the culture as a whole) is that it’s refreshing to have this product of Japanese art in my life that’s not quite so dismal, especially right now. We could all use a good, healthy laugh; something heartwarming, full of curiosity, hope and joy. Even if that’s not what this album is all about, that’s what this album is all about. If you can scrounge up the 2,500 yen and shipping costs, this one is absolutely worth the effort to seek out and find yourself falling into like the soft, pillowy bed of feathers it is. Or, we can all just start a petition to get this thing released stateside. Let me know... I want vinyl.
Please read the full review here.