Peggy Sue take folk music into dangerous and exciting new places. Their songs are soulful, dark and reflective and have a gritty indie edge. The duo from Brighton, England had been building up interest for some time thanks to the quality of their songwriting and their rich vocal harmonies. A series of single and EP releases helped them to establish themselves. Now Katy and Rosa have recruited a third band member, drummer Olly Joyce, and the band have developed a fuller more distinctive sound which you can hear on the 12 new songs that appear on their debut full length album Fossils and other Phantoms.
On the single Watchman the cascading drumming adds tension to the poignant vocals. On two minutes there is a clash of percussion and the womens voices rise in a great wail of emotion. It’s a terrific song, and there’s a beautiful and mysterious video to go with it :
Peggy Sue have occasionally been bracketed with Laura Marling, another folk singer from the south of England. But while the 20 year old Marling chose to look back toward traditional folk music in her 2010 album I Speak Because I Can, Peggy Sue have reached beyond the folk scene and their music is the richer for it. Among many highlights on the album check out Yo Mama, Green Grow The Rushes and She Called.
Stornoway are wary of labels. They’ve been labelled as posh because of their clipped English accents, and the fact that the group was formed in the ancient halls of Oxford University. They’ve been labelled as nu folk, but “”from where we come from Brian writes songs and just happens to use an acoustic guitar and it doesn’t really have much bearing to folk for us”.
Named after a remote town in the Scottish highlands to which they’ve never been, Stornoway certainly aren’t your average pop band. They’ve all got very respectable academic CVs. They play a wide range of instruments. And they look fresh faced and cute. Lead singer and songwriter Brian Briggs turns unlikely subjects into pop songs with his intricate clever lyrics, to which the band add some arty arrangements.
They signed up to 4AD records in March and have just released their debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill. Recommended tracks are the 2009 single Zorbing, and Fuel Up. The band’s obsession with ornithology comes out in a few of the tracks, notably Watching Birds. The album has plenty of good ingredients – the complex lyrics, the variety of acoustic sounds, the vocal harmonies – but it didn’t do it for me. Maybe this did have something to do with their background. It all felt a bit cerebral, a bit art school, and I’d like to hear Briggs make himself more vulnerable in his songs.