Album Review: Smoke Fairies – Smoke Fairies

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The eponymous titled Smoke Fairies is album number four in the discography of the British duo Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies. The album was recorded in a remote recording studio in Kent with producer Kristofer Harris. Davies says, “It just physical felt so different from anything to do with the music industry” and perhaps this is just what they needed. The album features drummer Andy Newmark (Sly and the Family Stone, Roxy Music and John Lennon) as well as other bandmates and touring friends.

In this latest release, the indie rock / folk rock duo have created a collection of sweet, uplifting songs contrasted with darker moments that scrape the gloss from this surface of optimism and dip into something deeper that experiences have given them. Indeed, they were close to splitting up after the release of last year’s album, Blood Speaks but Davies eventually recommitted herself to the project Smoke Fairies and apologized for having doubts about being in the duo.

The opening track We’ve Seen Birds is a sugarcoated song that starts the album with a very catchy melody that conjures up images of summer days in the park. It was inspired by the near-recent break-up and is an apology from Davies to Blamire. The song that perhaps sums up their musical career to date is the song Hope Is Religion, an honest song where their vocals work blend so well together that it is difficult to separate them. It was written together and Davies says, “It’s about writing songs with someone … it’s also about how with music you’re always hoping for more.”

Shadow Inversions is another song where their vocals join together to create a haunting song which is one of the most interesting on the record and features a grizzle guitar sound that is constantly menacing alongside what is otherwise quite a psychedelic recording. Not every song sees the two of them singing together in harmony. At times they act as two characters talking to each other such as in Koto where both voices only come together to sing “He doesn’t change his mind” as this longing for togetherness is something that is not reciprocated. Want It Forever is one of the catchiest songs on the album with the full band combining with the duo to create a song about wanting “more and more” and the unattainable dream of mortality.

The album ends in much simpler fashion with rather naked vocals accompanied by piano in the song Are You Crazy? Here the duo seem to be having doubts again about the music industry but still aim to be “immortalized in song.”

Phil Soanes