Good luck woman

Now isn’t this strange?

Here in America, Pizzicato Five releases its fifth album, creatively titled The Fifth Release on Matador, and it comes across like all the other albums P5 has recorded.

Back in Japan, singer Nomiya Maki strikes out on her own, not exactly stretching beyond the comfort zone of P5’s club friendly pop trash, but she manages to record a better album.

Miss Maki Nomiya Sings sports many of the elements that makes Pizzicato Five such a familiar listen — big club beats, homages to Burt Bacharach and Serge Gainsbourg, lush strings, bossa nova rhythms, and a lot of French lyrics.

But it’s her collaborators which make all the difference on this project.

P5 instrumentalist Yasuhara Konishi knows only so many ways to make good use of Nomiya’s voice. On Miss Maki Nomiya Sings, guests such as Cibo Matto’s Honda Yuka and former Deee-Lite DJ Towa Tei offers Nomiya something new.

And boy does she ever shine.

On “Star Struck,” Honda sandwiches Nomiya’s sweet harmonizing between stretches of buzzing guitars and synthetic drums. “Baby” features a catchy, catchy, catchy intro that makes a terrific counterpoint to Nomiya’s bouncy delivery.

“Arrivederci a Capri” has the best back beat to support Nomiya’s voice since “Magic Carpet Ride” on Made in USA. At times, you’d wish Nomiya would bust out of her usual fare, such as the reprise of “Fiorella with the Umbrella” that follows P5’s habit of putting remixes of the same track on the same album.

It’s not until the very final track of the album where Nomiya’s potential for so much more becomes readily apparent. With acoustic guitars chiming behind her, Nomiya does a mean cover of KISS’ “Hard Luck Woman.”

At that moment, a listener realizes that Nomiya’s smooth alto could sing a shopping list a still be riveting. Sugoi!