Sing-Sing and I (Aerial)

Feb 22, 2006 at 4:00 am
Lisa O'Neill has the sort of angelically ethereal voice that could salvage any lyric. (And with lines such as "Lover, you're a mannequin/Lover, you're my mandolin," her songwriting partner and ex-Lush guitarist Emma Anderson occasionally puts that threshold to the test.) But to its credit, Sing-Sing doesn't rest on its rare chanteuse credibility. The best tracks on this second album conceal a savage jolt beneath their placid surfaces, like shimmering seas infested with electric eels.

Sing-Sing combines stylish spy-movie ambiance, giddy girl-group harmonies, warm-toned electro-noises, graceful vocal phrasings and psychedelic guitar shards. For the most part, these are relentlessly pleasant, unfailingly melodic backdrops. Lyrically, though, hints of violence invade these serene settings. "Break my bones just to talk to you," O'Neill sings during a creepy statement on celebrity obsession cloaked as a love song, and then "promises if you ever feel alone/He will break her legs and bring her home" during an otherwise upbeat ode to a spiritual healer. "Going Out Tonight" starts perky, then detours into an eerie psychedelic haze as its club-hopping protagonist groggily realizes she's in a strange bed. On this album, romance comes with a cast and crutches — and rude awakenings disrupt delicate dreamworlds.