Sophomore album from Indianapolis siblings Lily and Madeleine, look at them all sleepy on their boat. All that hard work is obviously paying off, I hope it doesn't capsize, that would be a dreadful thing to happen. It does look slightly leaky doesn't it? They've not even packed a picnic or any toiletries by the looks of it. Silly girls!
8/10 Robin Staff review, 21 October 2014
The great Asthmatic Kitty conspiracy theory -- that Sufjan Stevens really likes rabbits -- continues on Lily & Madeleine's second record of multi-faceted indie pop, which has a song called "Rabbit", with a particularly good tie-in lyric: "Run rabbit run". Label easter eggs aside, though, and allowing a segue to permeate into this review swiftly and brilliantly, 'Fumes' doesn't sound all that much like an Asthmatic Kitty release. This duo's folk pop buoys few instrumental flourishes and uses what's at hand to create its twists and turns, interested in spontaneity and surprises but not in the oddball expansions and obsessive toy-tinkering of their labelmates. The result is a serious and stoical record, one that rings with country twang, gorgeously written vocal melodies and plenty of piano thrumming -- and one that's completely and righteously humourless. Where other Asthmatic Kitty labels might hide their sadness under the table and put their '90s Casio on top of it, Lily & Madeleine are able to make delicate and serious arrangements that look their traumas in the eye. Basically, they listen to First Aid Kit, not Castanets.
Lily & Madeleine know country rock inside out, and they're also aware of its capacities: on 'Fumes', they prove it can be mixed and mashed with its genre siblings, placed against more raucous indie rock tunes and even against brooding electronic excursions. In this sense, they remind me of R.E.M. in their 'Out Of Time' phase, devotional to something they know well but never held back by its exclusively traditional limitations. There's still urgency and a very contemporary kind of approach to a lot of these songs, with the wonderfully twee "Cabin Fever" recalling Hospitality in its juxtaposition of Sarah Records sweetness and foreboding, coarse guitar shimmers. These songs are unsettling even at their brightest, Lily & Madeleine singing in clandestine tones in which their melodies sound strangely, inexplicably dark. Maybe that's just because they're not singing about their fifth-favourite US State or the latest sermon from their Pastor, but 'Fumes' is a triumphant Asthmatic Kitty venture: it sounds mature and realised, the work of artists who can be expressive by merely folding their arms. Also, there's some banjo on "The Wolf is Free", so run with that.
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- Fumes by Lily & Madeleine
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