Shojo Toshi was the second album from artist Tujiko Noriko, and when it arrived on Mego Records almost five years ago now, people thought it somewhat strange that an album with such a pop (relatively speaking) bent could find a home on the label known for its mind-bending laptop artists. Sadly, the album went out of print, but now it's back, remastered and expanded with an extra 5 tracks from a 12" release of hers that's even harder to find.
Although it's not my favorite album of hers (that would be From Tokyo to Naiagara), Shojo Toshi is a perfect introduction to her world of skewed electronic pop and still contains some of her best songs to date. After the shorter instrumental opening track of "Endless End," one of those aforementioned amazing tracks follows in "White Film." Comprised of only soft woodwinds, some electronic tones, and vocals, the track is far from simple, as Noriko takes multiple layers of each then pulls them apart and puts them back in beautiful ways, creating a lovely tension by breaking apart each element at one point in the track.
"Machi No Kakera" is another standout, feeling more like a collage or a musical haiku than a traditional song. Shifting from filtered orchestra to quiet glitch-touched ballad and finally falling away with a touch of piano, it's a total stunner. Elsewhere, the album is more playful, as on the super crunchy, hip-hop inspired "Bebe," where overdriven beats dance with chopped-up vocals, chimes, and hand percussion.
"Mannequin Surfer" takes several of the elements introduced earlier in the album and combines them for another unique piece as hissy beat programming mingles with both traditional instrumentation like piano and flutes that all seem to fight with digitally-deconstructed dopplegangers of themselves as the song progresses. The vocals of Noriko, of course, are one of the major reasons for the success of the release as well. Moving from mournful to playful, at times she lets her voice come through the mix clean, but she also uses her voice as textures and rhythmic elements throughout, expanding her palette even further. Although they don't seem quite as developed, the bonus track are definitely a nice addition to the release, providing an expanded glimpse of her work from roughly the same time period. If you haven't heard this unique artist yet and are curious, this is as good of any place to start.