Lullatone

Plays Pajama Pop Pour Vous

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Lullatone have always been cute, above all things, and their fourth album is easily their cutesiest yet. If you couldn't tell from the title's polyglot preciousness or the cover's construction paper cut-out pajama partier, Yoshimi Tomida's lispily whispered lyrics should leave little question. Her wake-up litany on opener "Good Morning Melody," which could be the world's mellowest alarm clock music, runs, in part: "it's time for you to get out of bed/splish-splash some water and comb your bed-head." This isn't children's music, per se (though children would probably enjoy it), nor is it twee in the typical sense of that tag (artwork parallels to the Boy Least Likely To notwithstanding). Indeed, it's not very far removed from the abstract IDM melodyscapes that Shawn James Seymour constructed on earlier Lullatone releases using battalions of bell-like toy instruments and flotillas of gently chiming sine waves; both strategies resurface here, with most tracks tending to favor one approach or the other. In particular, the stately eight-minute closer "Floating Away" recalls the slowly unfolding pure sound mini-epics of Little Songs About Raindrops, if perhaps even more cradle-friendly. But the duo definitely explore some new territory here, including behaving like an actual duo for the first time on record: Tomida's almost cartoonishly cute wisp of a voice turns up on all eight tracks, in each case more prominently than ever before. "Pajama Party Pop," making good on its title, is by far the closest Lullatone have come to making a dance number with its steady four-on-the-floor; hooky bassline, jittery, Hot Chip-style percussion, and simple, poppy glockenspiel/whistling riff. The hazy, viscous "Sleepytime Samba" isn't one, really -- though it wouldn't have sounded out of place on Daedelus' samba-centric Denies the Day's Demise -- but the blissful "Thoughts and Clouds" nearly is (actually it's a bossa nova, as, naturally, is the shambling, ukulele-led "Bedroom Bossa Band.") Another first: though a certain unstructured floatiness persists, many of these cuts do come across as bona fide songs, thanks to Tomida's vocal input as well as Seymour's knack for understated melody, which makes this quite possibly Lullatone's most accessible release to date. On the other hand, fans of the primarily instrumental earlier albums may be put off by their retreat from abstract sound sculptures toward something vaguely resembling pop -- or simply by Tomida's undeniably little-girlish voice. Either way, it's hard to deny that, as Lullatone have slowly and steadily tweaked their musical approach, their fundamental underlying aesthetic hasn't changed, it's merely grown more distinctive and more fully realized.

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