If her daytime gig in Chairlift found Caroline Polachek dealing in music that's equal shares icy, precious, and pop, then the keyboardist/vocalist's side project Ramona Lisa trades precious for earnest, and pop for pompous, although the results are equally delicious. Think of Deerhoof and Cold Cave catching a smoke while leaning against the Roman pillars outside the Sylvia Plath disco and the magic of this maudlin and immaculately designed album unfolds, or know that evocative song titles like "Wings of the Parapets" and "Hissing Pipes at Dawn (They're Playing Our Song)" fit the tunes splendidly, with the synths, vocals, and production all offering their effete support. Unusual and striking songs like "Backwards and Upwards" and "Lady's Got Gills" come with enough hooks and rhythm to relate to the mothership Chairlift, but the title cut (which mixes church bells, oboes, art songs, and angst) and "Avenues" (a ravishing beauty with lyrics like "All my avenues are green" and a sensibility in line with that of classical composer Satie) come from another ethereal world, a world where "sweetness and light" is not an ironic idiom. A David Lynch aesthetic is reflected in the way the album eerily drifts, plus the presentation is extremely intimate, having been recorded on a laptop including Polachek singing right into the PC's mike. Fans of Oneohtrix Point Never, Virginia Astley, Lars Von Trier, and even Chairlift should find Ramona Lisa's debut a rainy-day soundtrack of the highest order.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries