Recorded in Seattle, and helmed by producer Phil Ek who has worked with the likes of Fleet Foxes and The Shins, among others, this sixth studio album is polished to within an inch of its life.
The Chichester duo who comprise Smoke Fairies, Jessica Davies and Katharine Blamire, have retained their otherworldly harmonies that sound as bewitching as always, finding that sonic hinterland between Stevie Nicks’ solo material and the sisterly harmonies of bands like The Staves, and their diehard legion of fans will find much to savour here. For everyone else though, it’s merely pretty nice, if undemanding.
Lyrically, it vacillates between arcane gothic imagery and winking cynicism. Chocolate Rabbit, for example, chides at a (former) lover: “You’re like a chocolate rabbit / You’re hollow inside / You leave me unsatisfied”. (Ouch, I’d hate to be the ex lover there…)
The warm blanket of familiar folk rock wraps around the listener for most of the album, in cosy songs like the psych- tinged On The Wing. Elevator has a pleasing circularity to the vocals. But Chew Your Bones, in spite of its intriguingly evocative nightmarish title, seems a little polite.
Only the Americana of Coffee Shop Blues really lets rip, with a twangy chill of steel pedal guitar and shivery vocals, reminiscent of early Cowboy Junkies, and their own more gloomy material like Shadow Inversions.
It’s probably no coincidence it’s a spring release, rather than one for the witching hour in late October then, but it’s still pretty, Sunday afternoon fare. And I’ll bet it flies when it’s all performed live in the festival circuit in late summer.