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Pajama Avenue

Pajama Avenue
(Loose Thread Recordings)

Zelienople is a trio from Chicago who play music that you might expect given the album title of Pajama Avenue. Mixing quiet guitar melodies with floating synths, electronics, subtle percussion, and the ocassional clarinet, the group creates perfect music for those lazy days in which you just sort of wander around your abode without ever getting fully dressed (the kind of day that I think everyone wishes they had more of). In addition to the dreamy landscape, member Matt Christensen adds soft, breathy baritone vocals to almost every track, adding to the hazy feel of things.

With all of the elements above, one can hear bits of early Labradford, early Mojave 3, and a touch of some softer shoegazer bands. With 9 tracks that run just under 40 minutes, the group keeps things on the shorter end of the spectrum in terms of similar artists, opting for almost a minimal, fuzzy soft pop instead of drawn-out dronescapes. Opening with "It's Hard To Steal Cars," the disc shuffles into a soft journey with fluttering drums and a repetitive guitar melody over some subtle electronic programming. Christensen adds his sort of mumbly-whispered vocals, and despite not changing much throughout the course of the track (although other small flourishes come in and out of the mix), it goes on for just about the right length, with a nice horn instrumental to give it almost a jazzy swagger to close things out.

As with the first track, nearly every song on the album unfolds at a very human pace. After the slighty faster (which is sort of funny given the title) pace on "Chase Scene," the disc lands with one of the best songs in the stripped-down, "Friendly With The Father." Christensen sings in harmony with a pretty guitar melody that's absolutely drenched in warm reverb sounds while only a pitter-patter of hi-hat and some quiet found-sound samples of a bustling city play out in the background. If I had fuzzy slippers, my toes would be curling in them.

While many of the songs follow similar patterns in regards to their sound, it's the subtle changes that make the album work. "You Got Shot Down" piles several layers of warm loops over one another as the track chugs along with a subdued urgency while the album-titled "Pajama Avenue" adds some slightly uneasy synth sounds to the mix for sort of a woozy feel. If you're a fan of much of the dreamscapey sounds of the Kranky label, the Darla Bliss-Out series, or nearly any of the groups above, Zelionople probably has something to offer you. A solid little debut album, it moves steadily and surely without resorting to gimmicks. Great music for the upcoming autumn.

Rating: 7.5