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Pajama People

Cool Intentions

[Memory No. 36 Recordings; 2013]

By ; April 26, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Brooklynite indie pop dealers Pajama People have never met a melody they didn’t like, or that they couldn’t turn to their advantage. And as such, their latest album of confectionary tunes borrows liberally from all facets of playful, shimmering pop music. They draw most noticeably from 80’s bands like Felt and The Go-Betweens—bands which seem to be antecedents to more recent like-minded artists such as Belle & Sebastian and Jens Lekman, though you could also lay some aspects of their hazy pop aesthetic at the doorstep of Mazzy Star and Kate Bush. But unlike some of their literary minded musical peers, Pajama People are far less concerned with any perceived intellectual affectation than they are with just making unabashedly effervescent pop. And on Cool Intentions, their debut record for upstart record label Memory No. 36 Recordings, the band delivers a syrupy sweet concoction of cloudy, fuzzed out indie pop with melodies that stretch out for miles.

But for all this talk of overt musical influence, Pajama People manage to successfully internalize these familiar sounds and, for the most part, are able to sidestep any trace of rhythmic mimicry. That’s not to say that you can’t generally always hear the influences in each song but they’re used in a way so that the band focuses on applying these recognizable cadences and tones without sounding like they are ashamed to be seen with them. The band isn’t afraid to acknowledge that they come from a long line of indie pop bands and embrace this notable ancestry wholeheartedly.

Not categorically lo-fi, the tracks on Cool Intentions bounce back and forth between hi-res synths and elastic keyboard fills and static and fuzz-wrapped guitars and buried vocals.  The opening track “Shake Me Away” does a good job of keeping these differing aspects in balance, with singer Lindsay Gordon’s voice bearing more than a passing resemblance to Kate Bush. The elastic pop and wobble of Luke Alvine’s bass and the insistent percussion from drummer Steven Salazar on this track deftly separates them from other bands who rely on vocals and the swirling rush of waves of guitars to evoke a sense of space and tangibility. Much like subtle pop shoe-gazers Lilys or The Telescopes, Pajama People know that there must be more than just the hiss and churn of buried sounds to drive a song forward. There must be a structure in place to support the additional weight of any influences that might come creeping into the mix, which inevitably they do.

On “It’s A Brew,” guitarist Will Lakritz takes up vocal duties and displays a knack for placing words in just the right spots between the instruments. Using sounds we’ve heard on countless other songs, the band, with Lakrita in the lead, turns them inside out and makes these all too familiar sounds feel unexpected and prone to subtle shifts at a moment’s notice. But this expectation is really just a ruse, as the song doesn’t really do anything differently than a dozen other bands. They just make us think that it could. And through this sense of expected unexpectedness, they draw the listener into their unique world of communal pop and evocative jangle landscapes. Other tracks like the afro-pop leaning “Drums” and “Wintertime (In My Woods),” with its iridescent 80’s synth-pop proclivities, further reinforce the fact that we’re hearing the sounds of past genres rebuilt and restored with a mind toward the concise integration of numerous formative influences.

There are times though when the band does come precariously close to repeating themselves on a few tracks. Working within this particular set of musical guidelines affords the band ample opportunity to widen and expand upon their indie pop forebears’ already significantly realized musical ideas, but it also makes them more apt to tread ground already extensively covered by those same artists. “Trains Guy” and “Go On, Go On” represent the only miscalculations on Cool Intentions. And by miscalculations, I only mean that the band simply rehashes the sounds of their influences without adding much that wasn’t already there. The songs themselves sound good and are well above average for this kind of loosely built indie pop. But they lack the spark and almost mischievous attitude of the rest of the songs. The album closes assuredly with “Where I’m From,” which acts as a kind of fraternal twin to previous track “Without You.” Utilizing variations on analogous synth lines, both tracks feature Gordon’s voice seeming to come straight out of the murky depths of the ocean and spilling out of your speakers between lines of buoyant synths and resolute percussion.

More recent bands like DIIV and Wild Nothing tread the same synth-based dream pop avenues that Pajama People comb on Cool Intentions. And while Gordon and Co. have some time yet before they’re able to say that they can deconstruct their influences as well as those bands, the songs on this album aren’t merely displays of deference to their musical antecedents. What has come before can come again, and Cool Intentions proves that Pajama People have an almost preternatural ability to make those sounds live again. It remains to be seen where they go from here. But on the strength of this album, you can rest assured that we’ll be hearing from them again…and soon.


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