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Review: Lily & Madeleine’s Canterbury Girls Mines Nostalgia with Mixed Results

The album is the duo’s most personal work to date, but they seem reluctant to let loose and lean into the music.

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Lily & Madeleine
Photo: New West Records

Having already taken a detour from their Americana roots on 2016’s Keep It Together, pop-folk duo Lily & Madeleine’s explore more soul-flavored dream-pop on their fourth studio album, Canterbury Girls. Accordingly, a sense of fantasy suffuses the soundscapes throughout, assisted by producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, who co-produced Kacey Musgrave’s Grammy-winning Golden Hour.

The album’s title is a reference to an Indianapolis park Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz frequented as adolescents, suggesting a longing for teenage pipe dreams and a bygone time. Over the course of 10 songs, the pair mines memories in search of a semblance of permanence, grasping at the slippery ambiguities that surface from the fog of regrets and unrequited love.

On Canterbury Girls, the Jurkiewicz sisters are most concerned with locating and exaggerating hints of magic in the painful and the mundane. As tender guitar arpeggios crystallize into a beatific waltz on “Circles,” the siblings are wonderstruck by the rush of falling in love again, even though it may be with someone who’s no good: “Got my body in a trance/Holding on to things I can’t stand.” On the more optimistic “Supernatural Sadness,” they emerge from a haze of confusion and despondency amid sweeping piano and synths, shrugging off the burdens of “supernatural sadness” and “magnetic madness.”

Since their high school days performing covers on YouTube, Lily and Madeleine’s most distinctive trait has been their seamless vocal harmonies, which are on full display on “Can’t Help the Way I Feel,” a love song that takes cues from 1960s pop. The track operates on a latticework of honeyed synths, stirring piano chords, and a rambling organ theme, making it one of the album’s most musically compelling. Lovelorn lines like “Sitting pretty, but I’m all alone” bring to mind the giddy musings of vintage girl groups like the Shangri-Las.

Yet, Lily & Madeleine’s vocals are so placid that they can sometimes scan as sedated, clashing with the dynamic musical arrangements and failing to evoke the emotion of the lyrics. “Pachinko Song” ramps up the tension with its brisk tempo, but the song’s chorus feels unsatisfyingly predictable, like a balloon deflating. Elsewhere, the title track is a leaden ballad with a vocal performance that’s so low energy it has a soporific effect. Canterbury Girls still succeeds at being Lily & Madeleine’s most personal and cohesive work to date, but the siblings too often seem as if they’re reluctant to let loose and lean into the music.

Label: New West Release Date: February 22, 2019 Buy: Amazon

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