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Various Artists

Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: American Laundromat Records

Babies require lots of things from what I understand. First you have to give them a really cool name (my top picks are Milo or Pippa – I call dibs!). Then, after you take care of the basics – the purchase of a Transformer-like stroller contraption, a final ruling on whether to go cloth or disposable, the shrieky vaccination visit – you get to move on to the fun stuff. Weeble Wobbles! Itty bitty shoes! The inevitable peapod Halloween costume (it’s never not cute)! And… the most precious gift any hipster parent can bestow upon their little love – indie rock street cred! To that end, American Laundromat Records has compiled Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies a benefit album for The Valerie Fund and a cuddle-inducing primer for the somniferous enjoyment of cool kids large and small.

Before you wind up the mobile, know this: Not all of these songs are lullabies, at least in the traditional sense of the word. Selections range from wistful to creepy. While some artists chose time-honored classics like “Edelweiss” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” several opted for strummy love songs that “became” lullabies courtesy of hushed vocals and a decided predilection towards tinkling chimes. There are some shortcuts here but across the collection, the dreamy beauty of the best tracks outshines the fallback choices of the weaker links. And hey, it’s not meant to be a philosophical treatise on the modern lullaby – they’re making a record to raise money for support of children with cancer and blood disorders so let’s cut them some slack and fork over the bucks already.

Skimming over the footnote that The Smiths’ “Asleep” is more about death than nappytime, Stars’ cover of the song is adorably dismal; a female voice lifts it into the ethereal in spite of its maudlin message. Tanya Donnelly channels Holly Golightly in a throaty, purring rendition of “Moon River,” allowing her voice to hypnotize by paring down the accompaniment to a lonesome piano and brushed snare. Similarly, Trespassers William turns in a heartfelt, lo-fi version of “Rainbow Connection” in which the transcendent, fireside clarity of Anna-Lynne Williams’ voice mirrors the simple sentiment of the arrangement (we should expect nothing less from a band named for a Winnie-the-Pooh reference). Other lovelies on this album – Dean & Britta’s “Making Me Smile” and Snowbird’s “The North Wind Doth Blow” to name a couple – share in common a wise song selection that recommends the soothing salve of the maternal voice.

The Rest contributes an outstanding albeit unsettling cover of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory favorite “Pure Imagination,” capturing the precarious balance between the dreamy and the eerie. Scattered moments of echoed acoustics and stringed atonality kidnap the lullaby quality of this composition but nonetheless make for a captivating listen. Perhaps even stranger is Say Hi’s choice of the Violent Femmes’ manic-panic anthem “Kiss Off,” a track that is essentially identical to the original but sung (shhhh! the kids are in bed!) verrrrry…. quietly.

Like any self-respecting indie release, there is a 7″ limited edition vinyl version that features two bonus tracks: Sigur Rós’ original song “Kafari” and an alternative mix of Donnelly’s “Moon River.” Never too early to instill a love for vintage! While it may not inspire listeners to jump over the moon, Sing Me to Sleep is a pleasant collection that exposes listeners to familiar favorites covered by lesser-known artists. Music aside, just knowing the profits fund health care for seriously ill children might help its audience slumber a trifle more peacefully.

by Stacey Pavlick
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