Plays Pajama Pop Pour Vous

(Audio Dregs; 2006)

By David Greenwald | 11 January 2007

Hushed voices. Minimalism. Brazilian genres, recorded in Japan. Pajamas. This is the music of Lullatone, a sleepy indie-pop duo that began as one member’s lullabies for the other. Little has changed since then, except that roles have shifted, and now Shawn James Seymour just writes the songs while Yoshimi Tomida sings them. In that sense, Plays Pajama Pop Pour Vous is a concept album with audience participation: if you’re awake by the end of “Floating Away,” you lose. But the band makes the game very hard, and in all seriousness, it’s not a bad thing.

Plays Pajama Pop is mostly electronic, puffy clouds of bips and bops floating sedately in your headphones as Tomida offers breathy whispers in Japanese. It’s got rhythm, though, even as deep in as “Sleepytime Samba,” where a bass line thumps (quietly) and an egg shaker is rattled in syncopated time. Brazilian rhythms make a few appearances, most notably on the acoustic guitar-based “Bedtime Bossa Band,” one of the album’s liveliest moments. Yoshimi wakes from a pink-robot dream and sings, wide-eyed and nervous, in English. There’s not much to it: a shaker there, minor seventh chords here, a flub and a giggle there, but like the album itself, it comes together beautifully. Bossa nova and samba have always been cool, relaxed styles, so it’s somewhat appropriate that they’re name-dropped on an album devoted to nodding off. Antonio Carlos Jobim would probably rather see Lullatone out dancing, but the band has absorbed the genres more in spirit than musically.

Though unadorned, the album is captivating in its simplicity. “Building Castles in the Sky” pits unpredictable keyboard melodies against each other at an enjoyably observable medium pace, while final track “Floating Away” gradually progresses upward before meandering back down through the clouds. It’s all incredibly pleasant, in a kind of heartfelt, well-meaning way that’s hard to argue with and even harder to dislike: the album’s loudest sound is that of Tomida blowing up a balloon until it pops, which might be the most inexplicably cute indie-pop moment of 2006.

There’s nothing particularly revelatory and definitely nothing exciting about Plays Pajama Pop Pour Vous. However, there’s something to be said for musicians with humble — and achievable — ambitions. Lullatone wants nothing more than to soundtrack the half-hour you spend getting ready for bed, reading a book in your pajamas and falling asleep, and the band passes that test with flying colors.