Lily and Madeleine at The Sugar Club, Dublin 1st December 2014

The Sugar Club played host to duo Lily and Madeleine, with the intimate venue providing the perfect setting for their harmonic combination. Their second album, ‘Fumes’, was released in October of this year and is a supposed step away from the indie-folk sound of their self-titled debut.

Their vocals, entwined as they are on most of their tracks, have the kind of disaffected sound of painful reflection. The first impression you get when listening to these sisters sing is that they have honed their harmonies to within an inch of perfection.

Before they take to the stage though, Chicago based multi-instrumentalist Shannon Hayden and Dublin duo Carriages open proceedings. Hayden, whose electric cello capitalizes beautifully on the acoustic possibilities of The Sugar Club, creates a baroque and haunting atmosphere.

Carriages, on the other hand, are hugely diverse. Their music, made up for the most part of recordings and wild tracks, is reminiscent of the ambient frailty of The Album Leaf, while singer Aaron Page’s baritone voice resonates well throughout the room.

When Lily and Madeleine take to the stage it’s difficult to tell whether they can live up to what came before them. It’s their first concert in Ireland and the duo entertain the audience with the knowledge they’ve acquired since arriving, including picking up the phrase “Thanks a mill.”

They start their set with In the Middle, with Hayden joining them on stage to provide musical accompaniment. Sung to perfection, there’s, nonetheless, something a little bit stiff in the way they comport themselves on stage.

It might be a bit selfish to say that you would wish for something more than perfection. But that is the case on this night. It’s not only that every note is in the right place, the songs seem to be played without any thought for intuitive deviations or sudden inspiration.

Lyrically they fail to connect, as lines like “And tonight I know there’s no shore we can’t reach/and tonight I feel there are no more lessons to teach” sound too abstract to grab hold of.

Though, at the same time, a peaceful, easy feeling is maintained throughout their set. This is, no doubt, the result of their inflection, of the harmony they are capable of and the frugality of their songs.

What they are lacking, in terms of their live show, will come with time.  The same goes for their sound. Already a bit conscious of the folk label they have been stuck with, the duo are looking towards a lusher, more involved musical outing which will hopefully see them lose their rigidity in the future.