Satoko Shibahara's output was slim in all respects. Between the ages of 15 and 17, she recorded a handful of lo-fi tweedlings and soundpieces as Rocket or Chiritori. A Japanese label Cardinal Records put out two mini-LPs and two singles in 1997. San Francisco's Paris Caramel added a 7" the following year. Collectively, these albums clock in at just under an hour. Twenty or so unguarded melodies, played on acoustic guitar and toy keytar or sung or both, are dashed with slack drums, windy bleeps, and analog samples. That was all there'd be. By 1999, Shibahara had given up Rocket or Chiritori to focus on school.
The demo-caliber documents left behind serve as evidence that by the late-'90s the D.I.Y. ethos of punk, C-86, and Calvin Johnson's K Records had reached beyond Tokyo's Shibuya scene into the bedrooms of average Japanese teenagers. What's more, for all their slightness the songs themselves stand up surprisingly well. "Fifteen Love" and "Vacation" -- the singles off the Love Eyes LP released in December 1997 -- are of interest for any indie pop fan with an inclination toward the obscure. Darla Records included a more polished Japanese-vocals version of "Vacation" on its 1998 compilation Little Darla Has a Treat for You, Vol. 9.
A few of Shibahara's sonic sketches are more forward-looking. "Thank You," from early 1997's Tokyo Young Winner, opens with a disarming tape collage: guitars crashing to a cheering audience, answering-machine tones, high-pitched orchestral scraps, and finally what sounds like an English-language teaching guide. The guide's underage speaker practices adjectives, "I want many dresses, I want much money," as Shibahara's "la la la's" float past. "Thank You," like Rocket or Chiritori, is over before you know it.