Midwestern sisters Lily & Madeleine shot to prominence with their ethereal folk-pop and charming harmonies on their 2013 debut self-titled album. The duo's sophomore record, Fumes, is far more expansive than that bare-bones first effort, and in turn the production is far more polished, giving the entire sound a sweetened wash and clarity. However, while the beauty of their debut was in its simplicity and the relatable nature of their youthful stories and innocent lyrics, here -- set against a backdrop of strings, a myriad of instrumentation, and the crisp production -- their words lose some of their personality and purpose. Yet there are many moments when they do find their feet, and it's among the slower, more pensive tracks that their two-part harmonies really hit the mark. The emotive nature of "Can't Admit It" burns slowly and dutifully refrains from introducing too many distracting elements, leaving the fragile melodies and lyrics to make their mark in devastating fashion. Likewise, the mystic nature of "The Wolf Is Free" flows gently, with swirling instrumentation intersecting the whimsical wordplay and imagery that are lacking on some of the other tracks. It shouldn't be forgotten that the sisters are at such a young and precarious age, and the introspective "Hold Onto Now" poignantly reflects on their fleeting youth, as they lament "hold onto now, as everything's changing soon," trying desperately to hold onto that youthful moment. Comparisons to Swedish folk sisters First Aid Kit still linger in the warmth of tracks "Ride Away" and "Lips and Hips," while "Peppermint Candy" is a straight-up pop song with cute rhymes that match the playful nature of an upbeat track. Overall though, there is far more moodiness and atmosphere on this record, and the album-closer "Blue Blades" draws comparison to the likes of London Grammar with its dramatic, pensive sound. Despite not quite reaching the levels of their eponymous debut, Fumes certainly explores the undeniable talents of Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz, and sees them closely explore themselves.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Kerr