Lily and Madeleine – Sister harmonies create authentic music

Lily and Madeleine beg descriptive terms like “adorable” and “cute,” but really those are almost insults to two accomplished vocalists. Their songwriting and vocal blending serves to provide one of the most unique and enjoyable sounds to emerge in 2013. Their self-titled album released this fall is sure to appear on the “top albums” lists for a lot of critics.

These girls, with their plaintive delivery and calm expressions, pour their hearts out in song for their listeners. It doesn’t seem that they have a deep inspiration to change the world, so much as they are expressing their heart to whoever wants to listen. Some artists work out of passion to make a difference, but artists like Lily and Madeleine make their art because they have to and they love to. It oozes through the words and music.

The opener “Sounds Like Somewhere” might just be the best song on the album. They are all pretty similar, but each hold a unique lyrical message. It’s not an insult to say the songs are similar because it’s a winning formula. The peaceful harmonies of “Sounds Like Somewhere” echo the lyric “some day I’ll find the right words and I’ll bloom where I was planted long ago.” A gospel truth of patience and virtue, wrapped in the sweet vocals of two peaceful spirits. It’s great.

“Devil We Know” has a strong base start and a gorgeous acoustic guitar finger-picked part that brings in a nice, full sound on the track. From the beginning of the vocals, there’s a bit more power behind this track than others on the album. “We’ve been pining and now we want to go home…” seems that it could mean a lot of things. The overall tone of the lyrics alludes to a broken relationship that the singer returns to because it’s the “devil” she knows; that is to say it’s better to be in a familiar situation, even if it’s bad.

“Nothing But True” sounds like the mid 1960s in everything from the vocals to the guitars. The following “Spirited Away” is a bit more like the opener and has a soft, reflective tone. Sounding like a contemporary indie music hit (along the lines of Tegan and Sara), this is the kind of song one might expect from these girls. The writing is clever, the vocals are great, and the sound is “fresh” even if it’s not evolving a style of music.

“I’ve Got Freedom” is one of the best tracks on the album. There’s something light and whimsical about the harmonies on it that keep listeners happy. The guitars and definitely the harmonies work toward an upbeat sound; the handclaps just punctuate an already-enjoyable song. “Free from settling… free from wasting my time.” It seems like the expression of a newly-single person, examining the options of singleness. Free to wait.

“Lost Upon the Sea” is an object lesson in dynamic songwriting and brilliant phrasing. Far too often songwriters try to fit too many words into the music. But these ladies have a wonderfully-written song that echoes the classic days of folk songwriting. The harmonies, as usual, are stunning. But what makes the song work so beautifully well is that it is written with appropriate phrasing. Great work, really.

The penultimate “Paradise” again reflects the 1960s in a number of ways. The twangy backing guitars put it strongly in that era. The final cut “You Got Out” is in a similar vein. It was one of the songs on the YouTube acoustic releases for this album. While it’s familiar and sweet, what really makes the song so effective is its persistent harmonies, even through the “oooo” parts on the chorus. The balance of guitars, piano, and vocal harmonies are all characteristic of Lily and Madeleine. This might be the stand-alone best example of their style. It’s a wonderful note to end the album.

This is definitely a great album for fans of softer indie music. It’s contemplative and relaxing. It would accompany the latest local roast in a coffee shop, or, given the late fall release, a cup of tea by the fire. There’s something about their sound that conjures up hipsters knitting. All told, though, these young ladies are real musicians making genuine new music that expresses deep, heartfelt truths. They deserve a fair listen that a majority of our readers will thoroughly enjoy.

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