The opening track on the new Lily & Madeleine record, Canterbury Girls, is called “Self Care” — a reference, surely, to the lately revitalized cultural priority of self care. But Indiana sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are a package deal, and even a song that nominally seems to look inward ultimately functions as a dialogue between them. The lines from the chorus — “I’m sure you don’t understand / Who the hell I think I am / Your beautiful eyes are sad and scared / But I can’t make myself care” — hint at a relationship of tough love and honest conversation, making it a strong characterization of what is to come from the rest of the album.
Canterbury Girls marks the fifth full-length album for Lily & Madeleine, who first attracted listeners with the melodic, complementary synchrony of their voices and harmonies featured in homemade high school YouTube videos. Their ouevre is one marked by a careful consistency, primarily working in the realm of folk pop and constantly making use of the natural ways in which their soft vocals join one another and intertwine.
This newest addition is named after Canterbury Park in Indianapolis, where the sisters would sometimes go to play while growing up. While the sisters have relocated to New York City, it’s clear from their sound that they still hold the roots of their music very close to heart. Canterbury Girls finds them continuing to make use of their trademark hypnotic harmonies, while also diving deeper into the pop-informed atmosphere that has distinguished Keep It Together and some of their other recent releases. Nowhere do they abandon the sounds of the Midwest entirely, but they do explore more geographically on tracks like “Pachinko Song,” which tracks Lily on a journey through Tokyo: “I ran through Tokyo hoping to find the place / Where only I could be, but I never found it / But I never found it.”
“Soaked in sunshine, don’t know where to be,” the Jurkiewicz sisters sing on the titular track, “Canterbury Girls.” Yet the album itself, as a whole, feels like it exists in a somewhat more liminal space — hinted at by the album cover, which depicts the two of them, inclined toward each other and toward us, standing in front of a vast lake under a haze of purplish clouds. Purples, oranges and yellows converge on this cover in the visages of Lily and Madeleine, evoking a soft space that could be either a sunrise or a sunset, depending on your interpretation.
In a musical sense, the explorations and preoccupations of the album do indeed maneuver around the edges of a liminal softness. Songs like “Bruises,” “Circles” and “Analog Love” dip into a reflective and at times melancholy sensibility. On the other hand, “Supernatural Sadness,” “Pachinko Song” and “Can’t Help the Way I Feel” are all somewhat jauntier melodies that feel like they’ve drawn inspiration from the fringe pop hits of earlier ages.
Canterbury Girls delves into melancholy, love, sadness and sisterhood. It’s a trim ten songs, some of which are more pop-inspired and seem to beckon reawakening and rejuvenation, while others feel more like dreamy incantations or even sore laments. Lily and Madeleine sound as magical together as ever, and even though they haven’t forged paths into remarkably new territory, they do continue to deliver quality songs that strike a fine balance between peace and despair, beauty and pain, harmony and solitude.