Lily & Madeleine Bring Charm and Psychedelia to Joe’s Pub

by delarue

Lily & Madeleine are the bastard child of Madder Rose and Sigur Ros. It’s hard to resist using a word like “bastard” to describe them since “bitch” would be way, way too much of a stretch. Lily & Madeleine are the kind of women you can bring home to meet mom. With their crystalline soprano voices and unselfconscious Midwestern warmth, they charmed and entranced a sold-out, similarly Midwestern crowd last night at Joe’s Pub.

Highs were bouncing all over the place early in the set.. “Nate, we have feedback up here, I believe it’s coming from the second front monitor,” Madeleine explained to the sound guy. “Is there anything we can do on our end to remedy the situation?” she inquired, bright and chipper. Others would have scowled, stopped their set, even. Not these two. They soldiered on, and things eventually worked out ok.

What is not to like about this sister duo? They harmonize beautifully. They play a whole bunch of different instruments. Their band is tight and they have the absolutely brilliant Shannon Hayden as their lead instrumentalist. Their songs are catchy. They release them on vinyl. What coldhearted curmudgeon wouldn’t want a vinyl copy of the new Lily & Madeleine album? Seriously.

Lily & Madeleine’s music is a mashup of trip-hop, psychedelia and chamber pop. It’s a very 90s sound, probably best appreciated under the influence of marijuana. Although the two sisters definitely weren’t stoned, and from the looks of it most of the multi-generational crowd didn’t seem to be either. Maybe other than one bespectacled dude who was so zooted that he couldn’t figure out what to order from the menu, so he just asked the waitress to bring him whatever she recommended. He ended up devouring a small plate of what looked like kung po shrimp.

Both sisters played tersely and eloquently on piano and multi-keys; Lily also played tightly competent rhythm on a beautiful white Strat. They let the notes linger, not wasting anything: resonance is one of the keys to their sound. Rhythm is another. Dummer Kate Siefker grabbed the ka-CHUNK, ka-CHUNK beat with both hands and swung it to the next level with her imaginatively tumbling cascades, unexpected textures and dynamic presence: she really felt the room and hung back when the music was most delicate, spinning a gracefully intricate, nocturnal web. And the way she almost imperceptibly shifted from the trip-hop to a straight-up, four-on-the-floor drive, as a couple of songs gathered steam, was artful to the extreme.

Hayden was a one-woman orchestra, switching deftly between electric mandolin, electric cello and lead guitar, often in the same song. Beyond the enveloping, low-register washes she’s best known for (she’s got a fantastic solo album just out), she ran her mando through a bunch of pedals, turning hammering flurries of Dick Dale tremolo-picking into a forest of reverberating notes. And she made the most of what little time she got on lead guitar, taking one of the songs to Memphis on the wings of some warmly purist Muscle Shoals licks.

Places figure into a lot of the duo’s songs. An early number offered a hazily nocturnal Colorado swimming pool reminiscence. A later song set in Chicago bordered on the lurid but didn’t quite go there. That’s this band’s strongest suit: they tantalize you with their hooks, sometimes crystallized, sometimes fragmentary.. Interestingly, one of the trippiest numbers of the night, Westfield, was also the techiest, bouncing along on the pulse from Siefker’s syndrums. They closed the set with Nothing, an understatedly bitter, Beatlesque kiss-off anthem that wouldn’t be out of place in the Gary Louris songbook, Madeleine on lead vocals. The encores were a propulsive guitar-pop tune and a lowlit, minimalist cover of Sea of Love with Lily on piano, a gentle way to send everyone back out into what had become an uncharacteristically wintry night.

Lily & Madeleine’s marathon US tour continues; upcoming dates through May are here.