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Smoke Fairies are one of those groups whose move towards the mainstream has been slow and steady. Each album seems to be more palatable to the mainstream than the previous one but they never do anything drastic enough to make you want to scream 'sell out' at them. I've written the words 'bit dull' on the post-it note on the front of the CD promo but listening to it today the opening brace of tunes are really catching my ear. 'We've Seen Birds' is a radio-friendly slab of acoustic pop not unlike those moments when 10,000 Maniacs decided they'd had quite enough of being skint. Quirky, wordy guitar pop, easy on the ear. 'Eclipse Them All' is a darker effort with an organ and drum machine base. Again my ear pricked immediately. The hints of electronica in this track continue into the swirly and dreamy 'Shadow Inversions' and the slower 'Hope Is Religion', they have come a long way from their folky roots and sometimes you miss having that edge amongst the glacial synth soundscapes.
Having said that, invariably they do this kind of thing very well and as the album wears on the more they seem to be embracing their inner Bat For Lashes with lots of synth/keyboard-led navel gazing and guitars pretty much banished for huge swarthes of the album. Still, when they use it to their advantage and create the windswept 80's Kate Bush fairlight pop of 'Koto' the effect is interesting, if completely at odds with how the band first started out.
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