Toting a suitcase full of vaudevillian tricks and the endorsement of They Might Be Giants, Brooklyn’s Drink Me indulges in the charm of animated ditties about singing clams, vocalizing trees, Grant’s Tomb, barnacle-encrusted whales and comforting cups of coffee on its self-titled debut. Cherishing fragile creatures and passing moments of beauty (“St. Monday” simply recounts a daydream; “The Women” is a brief, tropical ode to femalekind), the duo-gangly Mark Amft (vocals, accordion, bass, slide guitar, ukulele) and guitarist Wynne Evans, joined on a few tracks by horn players-have an appropriately light, folky/jazzy coffeehouse touch that suits the simple songs but prevents the record from ever touching the ground.
With only accordionist Will Holshouser helping out, the urban-themed five-song EP (available only to subscribers of the Hello Recording Club) brings a tad more instrumental invention and vocal passion to Drink Me’s recipe. “NYC” is a high-lonesome paean to the small pleasures of the band’s hometown; the folky “Penthouse to Pavement,” which convincingly sounds like a Depression-era original, takes life’s elevator down in a cautionary tale; “42nd St.” provides a jovial tour of the Deuce. Drink Me’s timelessness is its best feature, and the group dislocates itself here in the best possible way.
The understated duo also fares well on Sleep, a vividly entertaining set of intimate chanteys for breakfast and fireside. Pairing sparse jugband doo-dads and autoharp with Evans’ acoustic guitar, Amft casts himself in the role of whimsical sad sack for “Ladies Underwear” and “Tiny Saxophone,” flexing his rubber voice to coo and yelp the role impeccably. Bluesy ballads like “Sugar Lump-Lump” (also on NYC) tug at the heartstrings as Amft’s tender personification of a barfly enlivens a lovely hard-luck lullaby. A subtle and silly turnaround of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” blends in beautifully, proving Drink Me’s semi-antiquated act to be airtight.