"Sawed-off Shotgun"—the lead track from I Know, I Know, the debut EP from Durham's with-strings indie pop act Luego—is also its best: Dan Carlin's cello and Rebecca Wood's viola play off of frontman Patrick Phelan's fluid guitar work, the vocals weaving between the net of strings. It's pleasant and ruminative, like locals Bowerbirds leaving its folksy trappings for an Annuals-esque junkyard percussion coda. Elsewhere, the songs are still well-arranged, just not as memorable. Understated timekeeping from drummer Sean Connor and bassist Jason Hedrick provide the strings a steady ballast from which they ballet in careful, orchestral flashes. But the songs don't have hooks big or sharp enough to sink deep. Some will be discouraged by Phelan's voice, too, an unsteady midground between Dave Matthews and Dan Bejar. Still, even if the songs are works in progress, Luego's got the trappings of a crisp pop band, focusing on the songs and structures at a time when shoddy songwriting in indie rock gets cloaked too often in gestures and ornaments.
Luego releases I Know, I Know with a show at Duke Coffeehose Saturday, Jan. 26, at 9:30 p.m. Warm in the Wake opens. Tickets are $7.