Indiana-based sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz earned a record deal with Sufjan Stevens‘ Asthmatic Kitty label after a performance video they uploaded went viral on Reddit. That said, nothing about Lily & Madeline‘s music hinges on novelty; their lovely 2013 self-titled debut was simple but effective indie-folk with twinkling percussion, wistful acoustic guitars and feathery piano.
With producer Paul Mahern and songwriter Kenny Childers again at the helm, the duo’s latest, Fumes, is a sophisticated step forward that features more ornate arrangements and a broader palette of instruments. Eerie cello and a low, buzzing synth contribute to the apocalyptic theme of “Blue Blades”; spooky melodica and winking glockenspiel shimmer on the title track, which confronts the deleterious effects of mismatched expectations; and the tape echo gadget Echoplex exacerbates the hollow, sinking feeling of “Can’t Admit It,” a song describing the difficulty of making a relationship clean break.
Vocally, there’s no doubt that Lily & Madeleine are sisters; the pair’s lilting, ethereal melodies and harmonies intertwine like a tightly plaited braid. The effect is hypnotic when it needs to be (the psychedelic-tinged “The Wolf Is Free”), heartbreaking on some songs (the sparse, piano-driven “Lips and Hips”) and deceptively innocent elsewhere (the cello-grooved, quietly defiant “Peppermint Candy,” twang-frosted “Cabin Fever”). This juxtaposition of sour and sweet gives Fumes its teeth, and ensures the album resonates long after it’s over.