Laura Peek and the Winning Hearts From the Photographs

Recruiting Halifax pop geniuses Mike O’Neill and Charles Austin to collaborate on her first full-length album, Laura Peek guides the Winning Hearts through earnest and mysterious songs. Peek’s lyrics are vivid and almost conversational in numbers like "A Name” and "The General,” and she breezily recalls Julie Doiron in her strong but fragile vocals and phrasing. Peek’s piano playing is somewhat disarming, as it’s neither overwhelming nor plain but is bouncy enough to push pure pop songs like "Oh Lenny” and "Last Thing You Deserved” along at a reliably even clip. The major twists come with more adventurous arrangements, such as the odd time flourishes on "So Sorry” or the hauntingly sparse waltz of "This Big Drop.” A slight pun on the pop song predicament, "Where is the Chorus” is one of the most compelling songs here, thanks to Peek’s creepy vocals and the band’s stop-start shifts. It’s the unconventional fare that sustains so much of From the Photographs, a nonabrasive effort from Laura Peek and the Winning Hearts, which will please fans of mature pop music. (Just Friends)