When Lullaby Baxter released her Capable Egg (Atlantic) debut back in 2000, the cabaret curiosity of the disc was met with delighted buzz. With cred in the form of her backing band (the Tom Waits affiliated Oranj Symphonette) and quirkiness galore in her nursery-rhymed lyrics, Baxter was tipped as a rising star. Then she went AWOL, finally surfacing half a decade later with a follow-up that proves the value of extended incubation periods. Though the Brill-Building-style production (gentle swoops of strings, Wurly organs, tasteful vibes and woodwinds, and fairy-dust cascades of harp) is dead-on, the thing that makes Garden Cities such an engaging listen is the fact that the songs sound so thoroughly developed. For all their whimsy -- Baxter chirps about being a 'breadcrumb,' coos over dump trucks, couches endearment in anachronistic Rat Pack-style phrases like 'rattled little clam' -- the offbeat, blue-eyed soul and Carpenters-pop tunes here have a deliberately calculated naíveté that works.