Comsopolitan talent

Not-so-helpful superlative proclamation: this disc is the best album of 2002 so far.

No, really.

Twenty-five-year-old Minako has keyed into the same catholic cosmopolitanism UA first explored in the mid-90s. The cover of her album even bears a resemblance to UA’s turbo.

Each track on Suck It Till Your Life Ends focuses in on a different genre of music.

“Work Song” starts off with samples of Hawaiian chant, then launches into a mellow, tropical vibe. Slide guitars accentuate the “Whiter Shade of Pale” feel of “Ramen”.

Dub beats drive “Ha”, while Minako sings a vaguely Asian melody. “Run to the Blues” indulges in a bit of country, while “Please Sing Me a Song” keys into a definite alt-rock ballad feel.

Jazz veteran Don Grusin, who arranged the album, ties everything together by sticking to a house band approach. This album doesn’t indulge in multi-track studio excess. If anything, it almost feels like an old Police album, minimal but diverse.

But the real star is Minako’s incredible voice. When she belts like a torch singer, she sounds just like Linda Ronstadt. And when she decides to keep her performance rough, she comes across as Sinéad O’Connor.

Minako spent her youth attending American schools in Japan. Her English has a slight accent, but it detracts nothing from her music. If anything, it adds even a bit more exoticism to an already lush album.

Still, her command of English produces some occassionally confrontational and frank lyrics.

“Fuck you why d’you give a life to me,” she starts on “Melt Down”, later excoriating: “You never cross your fingers ’cause you don’t care about what’s gonna happen in the next 10 fucking years.”

The lyric sheet says she singing, “freaking”, but it’s pretty obvious what she’s really saying.

On “Smells Like a Lie”, Minako calls herself a “25-year-old bitch” with a plan. “Do you read me?” she asks. “My lips forming the letters L-I-E-S, and you took it as L-O-V-E. My plan has succeeded. Then how come I’m a loser again?”

Wonderfully performed and amazingly written, Suck It Till Your Life Ends hearlds the arrival of an incredible talent. Minako is definitely an artist to watch.