Read any good kids’ books lately? I recommend William Joyce’s Rolie Polie Olie, which recounts a day in the life of a spacey young orb and his spherical family, whose “Rolie Polie Rumba Dance was always done in underpants.” Lullaby Baxter, the cerebrally seductive Canadian chanteuse who copped the latter half of her stage name from the cuckold hero of Billy Wilder’s classic 1960 comedy, The Apartment, displays a similar spirit of intelligent whimsy, with just a hint of naughtiness, on her smarty-pants-cute debut album. Baxter sings sweet ‘n’ goofy songs pitched midway between insinuating nursery rhymes and a sort of off-kilter feminine sophistication you might once have run across in places like Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel (never heard Blossom Dearie? You should hear Blossom Dearie). Her “trio” consists mainly of quirky lounge-pop dismantlers Oranj Symphonette; and while unexpected pedal-steel guitar, Chinese horn, and pump-organ flourishes signify eccentricity here, everything Baxter sings—be it samba, bossa nova, blues, or lullabies—sounds completely natural yet otherworldly.
The mysterious Lutwidge Sedgwick, Baxter’s lyricist, is a stitch with an obvious nostalgia for Middle American oddities of yore. Characters like Mr. Powder-Blue Breadbox, Morty-Mort-Morton Showstopper Calhoun, and Knucklehead populate songs evoking the animated furniture of ’40s cartoons. But Baxter and Sedgwick’s loopiness always includes a paper-sharp kicker. “Infinity’s pretty measly after all/ Like a donkey doing cartwheels down the hall,” croons Baxter in the unsettling “Chatterbox Chronicles.” And in “Ding-a-Ling,” a song so nice it’s on this short album twice, she comes off like Peggy Lee with a chip on her shoulder, tauntingly inquiring, “Would you like a subscription to my diary?/Then when I merge with the infinite/You can impersonate me.” But it’s Baxter’s beautiful,buttery-warm voice that carries the day, even when she’s putting the fun back in fuck off. She’s the capable egg of the title, and that’s no yolk.