They’re not outrageous. They don’t strike out in bold new directions. But Lily & Madeleine and Gemma Ray consistently turn out strong albums, quietly compiling impressive bodies of work. Overlook them at your peril.
Lily & Madeleine
Sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz specialize in lustrous, piano-based pop highlighted by the kind of magical vocal harmonies that siblings can seem to achieve so naturally. Their most affecting album yet, Canterbury Girls is a bracing mixture of opposites, blending beautiful sounds and harsh sentiments with deadly skill. “Self Care” observes, “Your beautiful eyes are sad and scared/But I can’t make myself care”; “Bruises” amplifies the sense of numbing alienation, confessing, “You said I was enough and I felt nothing.” It’s not all gorgeous disconnect: “Supernatural Sadness” adds a bracing dash of ‘70s dance grooves, and “Analog Love” celebrates midnight romance. Ultimately, though, this haunting work feels like an unsettling visit to treacherous territory.
Britain’s Gemma Ray has been practicing her evocative brand of dreamy pop for more than a decade. With ominous melodies that wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond or Hitchcock film, Psychogeology mixes her cool, poised voice with tales of emotional extremes, to striking effect. “It’s Only Loneliness” offers reassurance amidst desolation, while “Blossom Crawls” finds her declaring, “I’m ready to jump/I’m ready to be happy.” Handled with less finesse, “In Colour” could become a splashy hit megaballad. This enticing album makes great late-night background listening, but rewards close attention, too.