Comprised of sisters braiding idyllic images with heartfelt narratives, no it’s not The Staves…or First Aid Kit. It’s Indianapolis-based folk duo Lily and Madeleine. But like a serene walk through pastoral landscapes, it’s reflective and rarely tires – well, your legs might.
As you can expect from sisters who grew up together where rainy days were perhaps unexpectedly pleasant, their harmonies fill rooms with beguilingly tender tones. But they’ve only been writing songs together for a couple of years. And what’s more, their debut EP The Weight Of The Globe was written on the weekends because homework dominated much of their weekdays. Yet on the EP’s intro:
The way you sing unlocks my heart
Just like a key, like a key
And brings you right back home to me.
Less than a year later, the sisters are due to release their self-titled debut album via Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Records. It opens tentatively with a melancholy piano-led track while the forlorn vocals leave a heavy mark. It epitomises the maturity of the sisters’ songwriting and at times, you wonder how they could be capable of such delicate sentience.
But you soon remember that time between carefree adolescence and fully-fledged adulthood (whatever that is). Between the rays of hope and optimism, lies an air of uncertainty that hangs like the stillness of the night. This juxtaposition between light and dark is reflected in the track order.
In ‘Devil We Know’, deep piano lines and deftly picked guitars are stitched with zealous vocals. But as you delve deeper into the album, the mood grows foggier. The self-effacing optimism of ‘Nothing But Time’ is portrayed beautifully when they croon “sunlight whispers into the night”. And when ‘Spirited Away’ dances across you like a vague spectre, you begin to realise just how bewitchingly elusive their brooding sound is.
Remember when we sang
We made echoes off the greenhouse walls
The harmonies we made
Are ghosts a wandering these halls
Who wants you?
Who haunts you?
At the bottom of the misty valley lies [a] ‘Disappearing Heart’ where stripped-back arrangements forces the listener to confront heart-aching vocals about the struggles of identity: “Why can’t I be what you want me to be?”
But at the peak, the obscure haze is cleared by ‘I’ve Got Freedom’ and ‘Come To Me’ which shine like beacons of hope in blue-skied alpines. The former, a cathartic release from a relationship while the latter’s focus is on the spellbinding allure of Lily & Madeleine’s uplifting harmonies.
If the sky was falling over us
If the ground below us turned to dust
Would you come to me
Would you come to me
Throughout the album, you’re left with memorable impressions elegantly glazed in rich poetic lines. It culminates in ‘You Got Out’ delivered with wispy affection strung by Lily’s soothing acoustic guitar. And the manner in which the sisters harmonise here is simply enchanting.
So dark that night you sang into that telephone
That song is something I can’t lose
So dark that night you lost the handle while I wrote this
I can’t disconnect the two
But before you’ve finished absorbing the dreamy mystery, secret track ‘Token’ drifts about with a beautifully opaque tone captured again by the ethereal vocals. The whole experience is concocted with a translucence that transcends their age. Some teenagers might struggle to contemplate and appreciate the maudlin themes yet we have two here who can paint them into illuminating soundscapes.