The 23-year old Tokyo native bends the most gentle and familiar pop sounds into a bittersweet backroad journey through a dreamy, imaginary countryside. The instruments are often conventional, but the sound never strays from surprise and bewilderment: Acoustic guitars are almost never strummed, but pluck out exact rhythms and slide from note to note in amazing melodies. Shugo can conjure up the ghosts of bygone Brian Wilson-summers one second only to turn the corner into the best Southern road-movie ever. Even when he stumbles into experimental territory with psychedelic drones, super-fast guitar licks, and jarring backwards-riffs, he retains a quiet honesty. Nothing is forced or “show-off”: “Night Piece” is merely the beautiful pop that flows through Shugo Tokumaru’s world.
8.6 from pitchfork:
“From its nakedness we realize just how rich a world Shugo has designed with Night Piece, and just how subtle his musical gestures are. So Night Piece is “just” pop music, but it manages to point well beyond itself, and regardless of who didn’t influence it or what scenes it doesn’t fit into, albums like this are always relevant, and always welcome.” -pitchforkmeda
“Twenty-three year old Shugo Tokumara gives us a completely refreshing take on pop music with his debut, Night Piece. Mostly created from acoustic instruments with some light electronic accents, this Tokyo bedroom producer’s record could quite possibly be some of the sweetest 25-minutes of music you’ll hear this year. Tokumara’s unconventional style of arrangement takes each song into an otherworldly place that somehow remains very accessible and sincere. There’s nothing excessive with each melody, rhythm and sound being used in an exact, almost angular fashion, but the end result sounds completely full and all at once dreamy, organic and very much his own.
The opening track, “Such a Color” begins with an awkwardly plucked mandolin that is soon joined by a few more layers of steel stringed instruments. Meanwhile, Tokumaru’s gentle, bittersweet melody gives way into a Beach Boy inspired harmony that, amidst hazy swells of slide guitar and accordion, seems to fade into the sunset.
Night Piece is filled with a variety of moods and imaginative interpretations of music styles. The lilting chorus of “Light Chair” could be Cornelius, sans the sampler, experimenting with psych-folk-pop, while “The Mop” is a happy, Western inspired instrumental richly layered with bright acoustic guitars. “Lantern on the Water” features a percussive cello pulsing atop thumb piano accents and a metronomic drum loop, and takes an exotic psychedelic turn once the spaced-out vocals fade to the fore of the mix. In contrast, “Funfair” is very cartoonish, filled with the drone of crickets and recorder-played melodies. Tokumara even gives a playful wink to Les Paul by way of a kooky altered-tape-speed guitar lead during “Paparazzi.”
Night Piece is really indescribable. The nearest relative I can think of would be the Books Lemon of Pink, and that’s not even that close. This is one of the best album debuts that I’ve heard in a long, long time, don’t miss out. [GH]” -other music
“tokyo musician Shugo Tokumaru sounds, initially, like Devendra Banhart’s country cousin, playing his acoustic guitar and singing with a gentle, whimsical voice to the accompaniment of birdsong. if there’s a large dollop of twee hippy ruralism in Night Piece, there’s also so much more going on. Tokumaru frequently plucks his guitar strings with blunt, percussive insistence, which lends the sound an exposed quality at odds with the generally mellow mood of the album. He fits between styles, from gently lolling acoustic melodies to hazy psych-folk drones and jaunty acoustic jazz. It’s a compact but eccentric collection with an unexpected depth and charm, which ultimately wins out over its faux naif surface qualities.” - the WIRE
“Here the night isn’t doom and gloom as his shadowed, downturned face suggests. Night Piece takes place under a warm breeze and on a full stomach while the moon melts through the ice cubes in your glass. You find for your palate a rich broth of mish-mashed never-heard genres whose complementing tastes make for an intriguing new delicacy. This is the smoky sonic-blend equivalent of your new-favourite “modern cuisine” dish, and though “international flavour” consistently emerges throughout the courses of Night Piece, the whole never bears the bitter aftertaste of the processed-deathtrap genre of “world music.” Each of these pieces is fruit off the same branch, but sliced, sugared, spiced, and seasoned to a unique taste. Night Piece is fine dining for the open-minded indie pop enthusiast.” -cokemachineglow