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Lily and Madeleine - Fumes (Review)

Lily & Madeleine, Fumes

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IS THERE anything more beautifully satisfying than listening to a new album by Lily & Madeleine? The answer, in our opinion, is no.

Whether keeping it upbeat and positive, or melancholy and slow-burning, these two sisters have the heart-melting knack of creating something intoxicating. What’s more, they match their instrumental beauty with lyrics that drip with intelligence and heartfelt sentiment.

Released exactly a year to the day as their stunning self-titled debut, Fumes keeps the girls on track to realise their ambition of releasing an album-a-year for three years.

Rather than resorting to the same formula, however, Fumes marks a leap forward for the duo, a mature sentiment of two gifted young artists who have launched from their hometown onto the world stage with speed and grace. Or, in Madeleine’s own words: “It shows our transformation as musicians and as women, and was inspired by our experience on the road as well as the life experiences of people close to us.

“Dedicating more time and working with new artists in the studio allowed us to better create the sound we wanted. It’s a perfect reflection of this stage of our lives.”

The quality is evident from the very beginning. Title track Fumes opens amid a lovely xylophone arrangement before a gentle piano eases in the vocals that drift over you like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. The lyrics are shot through with the uncertainty of a difficult relationship, yet retain a positivity about them that’s utterly endearing. The duet, meanwhile, is beautifully realised… much like the drum beats once layered in.

Incredibly, it’s not even one of the highlights! Rabbit, the track that follows it, opens amid a fleet-footed string arrangement before dropping an effortlessly catchy guitar hook and whisking you off on a joyous record that underlines just how good these girls are at delivering lush meloldies.

Ride Away, meanwhile, builds from a tender, stripped back and acoustic opening that’s reminiscent of classic Carpenters, into something dreamy and seductive – much like another of the highlights, the deceptively simple but entirely playful Lips & Hips.

In contrast, Can’t Admit It finds the girls pondering another troubled relationship and has a melancholy undertow that’s similarly disarming but no less compelling, with lyrics that declare “I call to talk late at night, end up crying, when I told you everything’s alright, I was lying”. It’s heartbreaking and painfully honest (“I’m not so sure I want this anymore”).

As every good album should, however, Fumes knows how to vary the tempo so that each track is doing something busy. Hence, Cabin Fever drops another robust guitar hook, some hand-clap beats and has a sound that could almost pass for a Pierces record. It’s fuller bodied that some of Lily & Madeleine’s earlier work and evidence of their growing maturity.

The Wolf Is Free is, in instrumental terms, both haunting and cinematic, with vocals that contribute to a beguiling track that, again, stops you in your tracks, while the tender, acoustic Hold On To Now is another heart-warming gem that is somehow reassuring despite some knowing sentiments (“life is fleeting… hold onto now because everything’s changing soon”).

Elsewhere, Peppermint Candy is another breezy charmer that unfolds amid the sound of children playing and some more toe-tapping finger click beats. It’s a soundtrack moment in waiting and puts a smile on your face courtesy of its incessantly catchy guitar hooks.

While final track Blue Blades drips with the sensuality and style of a jazz-pop slice of chillout of immense class. It’s a terrific finale to a brilliant sophomore album. To say it’s essential is an under-statement; to declare it among this year’s finest releases a given.

Download picks: Rabbit, Ride Away, Cabin Fever, Can’t Admit It, The Wolf Is Free, Peppermint Candy, Blue Blades, Lips & Hips

Track listing:

  1. Fumes
  2. Rabbit
  3. Ride Away
  4. Can’t Admit It
  5. Cabin Fever
  6. The Wolf is Free
  7. Hold on to Now
  8. Lips & Hips
  9. Peppermint Candy
  10. Blue Blades