Peggy Sue

Fossils and Other Phantoms

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Rosa Slade and Katy Young, the lead vocalists and songwriters of the band Peggy Sue, call their music folk, and while it certainly draws on the melodic simplicity and stark presentation of traditional folk singers on both sides of the Atlantic, they've created their own dark little niche. Some call it folk noir, and that's as good a pigeonhole as any. The first thing that hits you is the intertwining harmonies, delivered in woozy, somnambulant tones that manage to sound both ironically detached and painfully involved in the romantic fray that most of the tunes traffic in. The harmonic intervals lend the duo's muted singing the quality of sounds heard in that strange state between sleeping and waking, when random words and noises can take on profound, and even frightening meaning. That feel is augmented by the lyrics, packed with images of lost connections, battered psyches, and passionate regret. The melodies are simple with hints of blues, jazz, and R&B slippin' and a slidin' through the arrangements. "The Reminder" is a stygian torch song full of ferocious yearning, and like "Fossils," has an implicitly sexual lyric. Both tunes start quietly and build to emotional crescendos that give drummer Olly Joyce a chance to deliver subtle percussion freak-outs. "The Shape We Made," a visceral song about the physical pang of lost love, has a Velvet Underground-like acoustic drone that complements its aching vocals, while the hardest-rocking track is "I Read It in the Paper," another tale of lost love that balances violent regret with inevitable resignation. Young and Slade both play all manner of string and keyboard instruments, but the arrangements here are as minimal as their vocals. Naming your band after one of the most famous rock & roll songs of the '50s takes a lot of chutzpah, but this trio pulls it off with a soulful, minimalist sound that's all their own.

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