Thao Nguyen started writing songs with her acoustic guitar in middle school in Falls Church, Virginia. While attending William & Mary, she met her current bandmate, Adam Thompson, at a coffee-shop show in Richmond. And while that may be a bit of a cliché, Nguyen's songs are not the tentative musical sketches of a mere hobbyist; in fact, she's a lively and charismatic performer. Yes, there's an acoustic-pop element to the music, but there's also an appealingly brash energy to the songwriting that is very punk. The duo's latest effort, 2013's We the Common, is a bit of a departure, with songs that weave in touches of bluegrass. Featuring a collaboration with Joanna Newsom, the album isn't so much an indication of toning things down as it is of the group expanding its musical palette.