Despite being in existence for almost 10 years, Brighton trio Peggy Sue – formerly known under the rather clumsy full name Peggy Sue And The Pirates – have never quite managed to break through into the mainstream consciousness. As their name change suggests, the band have tinkered with various elements over the years, including their DIY indie folk sound, but Rosa Rex, Katy Klaw and Olly Joyce are yet to really make their mark.
However, almost three years on from their well-received second album, Acrobats, Peggy Sue’s new record is set to change that. The time away – not counting the release of their live soundtrack to film Scorpio Rising in 2012 – appears to have given the band a greater focus on their third record, Choir Of Echoes, and resulted in a far more purposeful sound, without losing any of the heart that initially made them such an enticing proposition.
Produced at the legendary Rockfield Studio in South Wales by Jimmy Robertson and mixed by longtime collaborator John Askew, Choir Of Echoes suggests Peggy Sue have finally found their voice. From the first strains of the haunting vocals on the instrumental opener Come Back Around, there is a confidence and assurance about the band’s work that is refreshing and, more importantly, utterly captivating.
When their debut album Fossils And Other Phantoms arrived in 2010, it was somewhat lost in the aftermath of the success of nu-folk behemoths Mumford And Sons – a band that Peggy Sue have previously toured with. Yet to draw comparisons between the two acts would be plain wrong, something hammered home by the subtle nuances of the beautifully melancholic Esme, which opens the record properly with its perfectly pitched harmonies.
Substitute continues the strong start, with the delicate layers of guitars creating an understated, but sweet, melody that provides the basis for Rex and Klaw’s brooding vocals. In fact, it is those vocal combinations that really take centre stage throughout Choir Of Echoes – as hinted at by the album’s title. Idle is a perfect example of how effective the trio are when they strip everything back to the vocals and a simple guitar hook.
Ahead of its release, the band said of the album: “Choir Of Echoes is an album about singing. About losing your voice and finding it again. Voices keeping each other company and voices competing for space.” It is a straightforward theme, but it undoubtedly works. Songs such as Figure Of Eight and How Heavy The Quiet That Grew Between Your Mouth And Mine rely almost solely on Rex and Klaw’s interweaving vocals, once again demonstrating the classic phrase that less is more.
Although there are moments when the album does get slightly repetitive, Choir Of Echoes is arguably Peggy Sue’s best record yet, with the vocal harmonies conjuring up favourable comparisons with Warpaint and First Aid Kit. Its January release date could not be more apt either, with moody efforts such as Longest Day Of The Year Blues ideal listening for the dreaded return to work after the festive season, as the band hum “doooo, do, do, do, doooo” almost monotonously.
For a band that has remained on the periphery for much of their career, Choir Of Echoes really is a triumphant return for Peggy Sue. It is not necessarily an album that will make an instant impact, but with every additional listen it becomes more engrossing. This culminates in the marvelous closer The Errors Of Your Ways, which confirms just how far the band have come since their second album. It is the work of a group of musicians finally comfortable in their own skin, with all the elements coming together in perfect harmony.