One of the best singles Shiina Ringo ever recorded was not recorded by Shiina Ringo.
"Shoujo Robot" was the last single Tomosaka Rie would release before concentrating her attention on acting, leaving her abbreviated music career behind. Despite Tomosaka’s starring role, the three-track release was pure Shiina — part mechanical, part noir, all sophistication and all rock.
Compared to the pop confections of Tomosaka’s preceding albums, "Shoujo Robot" was the protein anomaly, a substantive ear meal.
That was in 2000, when Shiina was still a fairly new but rising commodity and Tomosaka was a burgeoning actress. Nine years have passed, and Shiina has become rock royalty. Back then, Tomosaka was boosting Shiina’s career. This time, it’s the other way around.
For Toridori., Tomosaka’s first album in almost a decade, she’s hooked up with Shiina and her Tokyo Jihen crew, plus members of Clammbon and Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. The difference from her early work is stark.
Albums such as Murasaki and un were idol vehicles through and through. Many tracks sounded state-of-the-art for 1977.
Toridori. is still very much a pop album, but like the "Shoujo Robot" single, it’s a meatier kind of pop.
Shiina’s "Tokai no Manner" sounds like the Tokyo Jihen ska outtake it could very well be, but it suits Tomosaka’s understated vocals. A stuttering, almost urban beat drives "Mezame", contributed by Tokyo Jihen guitarist Ukigumo, while Jihen keyboardist Izawa Ichiyou offers the album’s first hint of froth on "TARINSU".
Oddly enough, Shiina’s second contribution, the piano lullaby "Kodomo no Jyoukei", is the most forgettable song on the album.
Clammbon’s Harada Ikkuko and Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra’s Oomroi Hajime provide the album’s sunniest moment on "GOOD DAY GOOD BYE", while K-Muto and ZOCCO lets Tomosaka be her adult contemporary pop self with "Zutto".
But the album really belongs to Clammbon’s Mito, whose opening and closing tracks ("Curtain Fall" and "Mother Goose" respectively) place Tomosaka’s voice in their most musically dramatic settings to date.
"Curtain Fall", in particular, establishes that Toridori. does not set out to be just another idol showcase. It starts sparingly, just Tomosaka and a piano, but other instruments take their time showing up — strings, bass, chorus.
At eight tracks spanning 35 minutes, Toridori. is a breezy album. But Tomosaka manages to pack more music in that half hour than she ever did with her three albums at the start of the decade.