You could never call Yumiko Shiina predictable. Finding success as a solo artist and forming a band, her nine-year career has been as topsy-turvy as her music. And on “Heisei Fuzoku,” her first solo album in four years and the soundtrack to the Edo Period movie “Sakuran,” she and composer/ violinist Neko Saito turn in a set of jazz, Latin, tango, Broadway and classical songs that fuse perfectly with Shiina’s alt-pop songwriting and scratchy, throaty, sexy voice.
Born in 1978, Yumiko Shiina grew up in a household filled with music thanks to her father's interest in jazz and classical and her mother's love of dance, especially ballet. Ms. Shiina studied ballet from a very early age, but due to complications resulting from several surgeries necessitated by her having been born with esophageal atresia, her body began to grow less symmetrical as she aged and she eventually had to leave ballet behind. The scars on her shoulders leftover from those operations are said to resemble the removal of angel's wings [echoed in the design of her costume worn in the video for first single "Koufukuron" ("Happiness Theory") pictured left]. Her interest in music increased and by the time she was in high school she was involved in about ten different bands which honed her skills as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Her parents aided her in her musical quest, making connections and pushing her to audition for musical competitions, some of which she won. It was around this time that she changed her name to Ringo, the Japanese word for "apple" and possibly the name of her favorite Beatle (somebody's gotta love Ringo). Eventually, she signed with Toshiba EMI despite their harsh criticism of her lyrics which lead her to temporarily flee to the U.K. (Toriphiles, can you dig it?).