Some girls raid their sisters’ closets; I raid my sister’s music collection.
So it was eerily fitting that I discovered Poema, an acoustic-pop duo made up of sisters Shealeen and Elle Puckett, while scrolling through my sister’s iTunes.
For all their flaws, this is one duo you need to watch. Their honest, stripped-down vocals and floating, breezy melodies provide a perfect soundtrack to spreading a blanket out on the grass and enjoying the last few warm days of summer.
Poema started out as two girls having fun. Elle taught herself to play guitar and began writing songs at age 16. Soon, older sis Shealeen, a classically-trained pianist, joined in. The duo signed a record deal with Tooth & Nail Records in 2009, when Shealeen was 19 and Elle was 17, and released two EPs. Their debut album, “Remembering You,” dropped Tuesday and peaked at No. 4 on iTunes’ top 10 singer/songwriter albums list.
The album opens with a heavenly keyboard riff on “Clean Getaway,” but soon, the listener does a double take; wait, aren’t there supposed to be two of them?
Fans that discovered the sisters through their homemade YouTube videos are likely to be disappointed…at least for a little while. The first four tracks sound more like lead singer Elle’s one-woman band; Shealeen is hardly featured at all. Tracks like “Fallin’” and “Hesitate” sound like B-sides from Taylor Swift’s early albums, while Elle channels her inner Colbie Caillat on “Wonder.”
Yet I knew Poema could do better than that, and that these songs were probably put first for the sole purpose of drawing in legions of sugary-pop music fans. So I kept listening, and my patience was oh-so-sweetly rewarded.
If you want to hear Poema at their best, skip to “Apricots,” which is easily the album’s hidden gem. Their lyrics reach a new depth as they sing about lost summer love: “When I sing my last prayer and I finally make it home,/ Would you be waiting there in the spot we used to call our own?…I’ll meet you there someday in our apricot town.” And, presto! Shealeen is back, her lush harmonies blending with Elle’s melody seamlessly, like a teenage-girl version of The Civil Wars or Simon & Garfunkel.
Harmony is Poema’s golden ticket, and the rest of the album plays to that strength, especially on the walk-on-the-beach anthem “Footprints” and the satisfyingly sweet final track “Love of My Life.” While their lyrics still have a lot of growing up to do — young love is the album’s overarching, if not only, theme — Poema is a young band, and for what they are, they’re a damn good one. Now they just need to ignore the cookie-cutter pop princesses on the charts and focus on what they’re best at.