The Close Harmony Of Lily And Madeleine

Dec 9, 2013
Originally published on December 17, 2013 8:55 am

Each week NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson brings us a new song. Today, he introduces us to the music of Lily & Madeleine with their song “Devil We Know.”

“Lily and Madeleine capture what is sometimes called ‘blood harmony,’ where siblings can make their voices interlock in ways that sound incredibly natural,” Thompson tells Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are teenage sisters from Indianapolis, Ind. Their careers were launched when one of their homemade videos went viral on YouTube.



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So it's Monday. Maybe you're having a hard time getting started. How about a song? NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson has one for your consideration. It's the "Devil We Know." Stephen, what have you got here?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: All right. I've got two teenage sisters from Indianapolis, who go only by their first names: Lily and Madeleine. They just released their debut album, and when they recorded it, Lily was 16 and Madeleine was 18. And they got their start, the way a lot of people do nowadays, by recording cover songs on YouTube. And they were covering songs by, like, Bob Dylan and a Swedish band called First Aid Kit that's also sisters, you know, young sisters singing in very close harmony.

And when - Lily and Madeleine were discovered by a very influential record label. But there's nothing about Lily and Madeleine's music that sounds like a novelty. It's not terribly precious. It's just rich and sweet and unbelievably lusciously catchy pop music.

YOUNG: Let's hear the song "Devil We Know."


LILY AND MADELEINE: (Singing) April, I can hear your anger marching. Here it comes again. And the flowers will forgive your rage and your barking. Here it comes again.

YOUNG: That sounds like one voice that splits in two.

THOMPSON: Yeah. There's this stateliness and elegance to this music. But the maturity never drowns out the warmth and sweetness. You mentioned, I mean, Lily and Madeleine capture what's sometimes called blood harmony, where siblings can make their voices interlock in ways that sound incredibly natural.

But what jumps out to me about "Devil We Know," the song we just heard, besides those beautiful voices, is just that perfectly spare instrumentation, that piano hook and that gently plucked acoustic guitar. They're just gorgeous. They're a perfect compliment to these voices that already compliment each other perfectly.

YOUNG: And they're playing?


YOUNG: Yep, that's them.

THOMPSON: Yeah. They're not - yeah, they're not just coming in and laying down vocal tracks. We had them at the Tiny Desk for a Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR offices, and one of them was at the piano and one of them was at a guitar. And it was just - I remember you hearing these voices wafting out of Bob Boilen's workspace as they were sound checking. I was like who are - these people are unbelievable.

YOUNG: That's "Devil We Know," Lily and Madeleine, from their new self-titled debut album - the pick from NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson. Let us know what you think. Stephen, thanks as always.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Robin.


MADELEINE: (Singing) Lower the curtain. Let the rain come down like a spirit.

YOUNG: Blood harmony. Something new to look for, siblings singing together. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.