REVIEW: Penny and Sparrow’s “Finch” is Pretty in a Way That Makes You Smile


As I let Penny and Sparrow’s latest release, Finch (out on Thirty Tigers 8/2/19), fill my immediate airwaves, the word pretty comes to mind. Pretty like the first unexpected flower to peek out in the early spring, pretty in a way that makes you smile, pretty in a way that makes it hard to turn away, pretty in a way that makes you want to listen. Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke the duo that is Penny and Sparrow have a softness to their voice and instrumentations that belies the depth of their lyrical content; the struggle at the heart of these stories only surfaces after multiple listens. Their harmonies intertwine into a force well matched by the accompaniment on Finch as well which is lush but reserved. Finch finds Penny and Sparrow tilling the soil of the growing pains felt when the world’s realities conflict with one’s cultural values. As noted in their press release,

“We were both brought up in the conservative South, where you’re instilled with the notion that the straight white Evangelical Christian male perspective is, if not the only, then the most correct view,” Baxter explains. “We didn’t understand how wrong that was until we went out and experienced the world for ourselves. Almost everything changed for us in these last two years,” says Baxter. “It was a painful experience in a lot of ways, but it was also a joyful one.”

On “It’s Hysterical” they declare their freedom from their old beliefs, “There was a time when your opinion rode upon my shoulder…gone is all that old sh*t”. Other standout tracks include “Eloise, Don’t Wanna Be Without You,” and “Stockholm.” Vocals, a hammer-on acoustic guitar, and a solid bass drum build the energy on “Eloise” to a chorus repeated in affirmation as if increase repetitions will make it so, “we could be a gunfighter”. “Don’t Wanna Be Without You” takes a sharp turn away from the overall musical world of the record towards Caribbean and African rhythms reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland/Running with the Saints era and acts as a pallet cleanser before a return to the somber and introspective. Stockholm starts off with an admission that is difficult for some to make, “I could be wrong on a number of things” and concludes, “I’m no less confident, I just know less … no matter what y’all can say, I’m changing”. Getting out of the south and onto the open road for a few years clearly had a profound impact on Penny & Sparrow. “Give me life” is the call that closes the record on “Gumshoe.” Repeated like a litany, a prayer, a recitation mundane in its desire, but sacred in its devotion, “life” is the one thing Penny and Sparrow want to keep in the midst of change. Painful lessons learned are fine as long as there is hope for life on the other side; Penny and Sparrow’s hard-fought truths are ever-present on Finch with a promise that will carry them through trials and tribulations to come – in other words, life.


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