There are things that we ought to be afraid of. Things that, rightfully, send cold sweat nightmares. For kids it can be anything from the darkness under a bed, or strangers, or crossing a busy street. For adults it might change face a bit and become things like sickness, job security, or heartbreak. And sometimes, when you point the flashlight right at the thing you’re terrified of, you declaw it. You take its mask off and it returns to being an empty, boring closet with nothing inside to harm you. Or maybe the light shows an unexpected beauty in the place of what you thought was horrific. Other times, though, you aim the beam straight into the pitch black and the thing that you prayed wasn’t real, the one with all the teeth, is right there smiling at you.
Texas born duo Penny and Sparrow know these things, and in their 2017 release Wendigo they turn the lights off on purpose and hunt for what’s really there in the dark. With a musical maturity that has been honed over half a decade and hundreds of live shows, Kyle Jahnke and Andy Baxter are presenting their most ambitious album yet. Rejoined by Chris Jacobie (producer and engineer of Creature, Tenboom, Struggle Pretty & Christmas Songs) Penny & Sparrow delve into numerous new and diverse sound landscapes throughout Wendigo, without sacrificing the sharp honesty that’s accompanied their career thus far.
From the quarter kick laden “Salome and Saint Procula”, to the pitched-down vibe of “Kin” and all the way to the hypnotically instrumental portion of “There’s a lot of us in here”, it’s obvious that Wendigo is unafraid to be sonically experimental. Thematically, Baxter’s word bank reaches further than on previous albums. From the trilogy of songs humanizing the Grim Reaper (“Visiting” “Smitten” “Moniker”) and cascading down to the Urban Legend love song “Wendigo”, the intersection of daily grit and supernatural fable is analyzed in depth. On the back half of the record, Jahnke’s melodic leadership extends even deeper into beauty and surprise. With seamless track fusion from “A kind of Hunger” to “Let me be Crucial”, Jahnke has invented a 6 song musical terrain that is both complex in its varied offerings and impressive in its execution.
The creature with which this album shares its name is a shape shifter. One moment it looks completely normal and the next it’s all fangs and gore. In an instant it can slip it’s skin and go back and forth from ominous and ugly to hope and lovely. Life can be like that. Hell, we can be like that. Knowing this, Penny and Sparrow offer Wendigo as the flashlight you can arm yourself with. Use it to see what’s worth fearing and what was actually beautiful all along. Shine it into whatever patch of darkness scares you. For better or worse, at least you’ll know what’s there.