Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

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Eponymous albums that occur mid-career usually signal a sea change of sorts, and while Smoke Fairies' fourth long-player doesn't deviate completely from the sultry blend of metropolitan English folk, Delta-by-way-of-the-Thames blues-rock, and overcast dream pop that Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire have been honing since their 2007 debut, it's by far the most singular set of songs to be conjured by the duo thus far. The pair admit to questioning the band's validity after 2012's uneven Blood Speaks, even going so far as to consider closing up shop, but as Davies so succinctly states on the opening track "We've Seen Birds," a sort of apology to Blamire for losing faith, "I like to keep it moving, I'd be lost without you by my side." It's a good thing too, as Smoke Fairies have never sounded more sure of themselves, even as they move toward a more esoteric yet decidedly more commercial art-pop style. The subtle electronics and overall muscularity of songs like the swirling, almost industrial-tinged "Shadow Inversions," the epic, Brit-pop-imbued road tale "Waiting for Something to Begin," and the meaty "Want It Forever," never get in the way of Davies and Blamire's appropriately smoky voices, which have always served as the glue that keeps a Smoke Fairies outing from simply rising up into the sky like a colony of bats and vanishing into the night. That newfound confidence works wonders on the less brawny numbers as well, providing the lush "Your Own Silent Movie" and the sultry "Koto" with a certain vampiness that feels both sensual and stately, two stations that the duo have had a hard time juggling on prior outings. A complete sea change? Not really, but it feels authentic. It may have taken four albums to get there, but Smoke Fairies have assumed control of the ship.

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