toddle: I dedicate D chord

One of the hidden extras on Number Girl’s first DVD release, Sawayaka na Enesou, is video footage of guitarist Tabuchi Hisako singing “Mappurima Girl”.

It’s a performance she reprises during the career-capping Number Girl film. Karaoke makes anyone sound reasonable good, and in those clips, she sounds all right.

It’s a different story for I dedicate D chord, the debut album by toddle, which Tabuchi formed in 2003. There, she sings slightly off-key, sounding earnest and bittersweet.

It’s not an unpleasing voice, and it’s not out of place with the hard, driving rock of her band. But she does sound green, which isn’t surprising.

Vocal duties for Number Girl fell almost exclusively to Mukai Shuutoku, with drummer Ahito Inazawa making one exception. After Tabuchi became the newest member of bloodthirsty butchers, guitarist/singer Yoshimura Hideki found room to include her on backing vocals.

Tabuchi’s reputation lies with her guitar playing, and toddle provides a tremendous showcase for her.

Her singing may not reach the forcefulness of her guitar, but that guitar is a mighty force on its own.

“a sight” begins with a noisy pulse which gives way to driving rhythm. The opening title track bursts from the start, as if all the members were playing with additional limbs.

Tabuchi and guitarist Kobayashi Ai harken back to Number Girl’s dual guitar interplay — one thunders with pulsing chords, the other comments with a melody or riff.

Mukai seems to have moved away from that kind of arrangement with ZAZEN BOYS, and bloodthirsty butchers never relied much on it to begin with.

toddle’s rhythm section — bassist Esaki Noritoshi and drummer Yasuoka Hideki — do a fine job of grounding the band, but they don’t match the tightness of Tabuchi’s other projects (including a stint with Shiina Ringo’s Hatsuiku Status.)

bloodthirsty butchers’ Yoshimura produced the album, and in the studio, the songs benefit from some nice flourishes. Overdubs of Tabuchi’s vocals on “scene of a girl” and “mur mur” ratchet up the bittersweetness of her singing.

Despite the freshman strength of Tabuchi’s vocals and the big role her guitar takes over the other parts of the band, toddle is still a promising group.

The music on I dedicate D chord is muscular but melodic, dischordant but not eccentric. It’s an enjoyable debut.