Smoke Fairies are a duo blessedly incapable of sounding like anything but themselves, even as they began mixing up the proportions of their folk meets blues times indie rock formula on their self-titled 2014 release, and it's at once curious and fitting that they've made a holiday album that doesn't sound or feel much like any sort of holiday album. Wild Winter certainly deals with seasonal themes, such as the bystander's view of the Christ child in "Give and Receive," the snowbound tales of "Steal Softly Thru Snow" and the title cut, the journey home in "Circles in the Snow," and the blue December mood of "Christmas Without a Kiss," but there's little audible twinkle or good cheer on this album. (The fact it features all original material and no traditional holiday numbers doesn't help in this respect.) Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies' vocals are lovely (both individually and in harmony), the arrangements lend this music a cool, clean texture that fittingly encourages listeners to grab a blanket and/or curl up by the fire, and the production by Kristofer Harris gives the performances plenty of depth without overdoing the music's moody nature. If you want to hear a new Smoke Fairies album, Wild Winter is a fine and well-crafted set of songs that lives up to the standards of their previous work. If you want to buy a polished indie folk Christmas album, this might not do it for you, unless you don't mind having to occasionally remind yourself that it's a seasonal release. (Low's 1999 Christmas EP is still the gold standard of indie rock that captures the feel of the season while staying true to a band's unique vision.) If you want a Christmas album from Smoke Fairies, then you're the target market for Wild Winter, though the previous caveat still applies -- you're sure to enjoy it, but the guests at your Christmas party might be puzzled.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming