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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Tujiko Noriko
Make Me Hard

Tujiko Noriko isn't really at home on her home label Mego, the iconic Austrian geekophilic imprint known for being naught else but nerdy glitch-boys. That said, it's not like she really belongs anywhere else, not even on Kid606's all-comers label/mixer Tigerbeat6, which pulled a cut from her second album, Shojo Toshi, for its Tigerbeat6 Inc. compile. Shojo Toshi, when it was issued by Mego, was like a missive from some wide-eyed musical world yet to be explored by any kind of rocket men, a burbling longplaying exercise that evoked vivid thoughts in lurid colors through its charismatic, almost manic collation of diffused beats, distorted keytone sounds and sweetly-sung sentimentalist vocals. Mixing capriciousness with prettiness and outright experimentalism in a manner gently reminiscent of avant-pop genius Haco, Tujiko's introduction to the world at large was one of the most astonishing records of last year, second-best behind Björk's Vespertine to my ears. And the Icelandic elfin pop-princess is probably a better comparative form-guide than the professorial digiboffins of Mego or Kid606's lecktro-punk American enclave. For, like Björk, Noriko works at fusing digital sounds into pop-song forms, and, like Björk, Noriko does this not as some quaint modernist exercise, but as some raw, draining, enveloping, loving and slightly nutty artistic craft. Unlike the squeaky-clean sound-lab stuff churned out by countless armies of powerbookish European men, Tujiko's exercises in distressed digitalia sound strictly hand-crafted, if that makes sense. And, on her third album, Make Me Hard, these by-hand cut-and-paste jobs of layers upon layers of treated synthesizer presets — twee polymeric "strings," quacking "muted trumpet," glissando "piano," baroque "clarinet" — gather into something absolutely monumental. Now much more confident vocally, Noriko assumes a profoundly expressive position, her vocals all edgy phrasing and coloring, which adds a particularly heartfelt feel to proceedings. The songs they go with are viciously soulful, fuzzy-edged collations of diffused tone that she "builds up" around the listener, fashioning effects-blasted tones up into some opaque monument. The sounds surround the listener, registering in a tactile way in this strangely tactile sound-world, like the heaving gasps of dead cities and the whispers of melancholy ghosts left haunting the wires of outdated technology. Three albums in, and her idiosyncratic sound sounds even more idiosyncratic — totally grand, but never grandiose. It's cute, heedless, sweet, devastating, and charming all at once. Tujiko forges an awkward musical beauty that sets her apart from not just her label-mates, or the no-fun out-electro underground, or shiny/happy Japanese pop-kids, or any other measuring sticks that fail to measure up. She — like Haco or Björk — is off in her own distant musical world. And it's not going to come to you.

by Anthony Carew

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