Release Date: Mar 11, 2016
Record label: Thirty Tigers
What if you erased all the messy male/female stuff of the Civil Wars and got down to business with two dudes who were at least on the surface contradictory? You’d get Penny and Sparrow. The Austin, Texas duo is comprised of vocalist Andy Baxter and composer Kyle Jahnke, two men who met in college and then took to the road in support of homemade recordings, eking out a name for themselves on this coast or that by combining elements of the aforementioned Civil Wars, the Swell Season, Bon Iver, Simon and Garfunkel as well as the music of Stephen Sondheim. If the songs got a little unnecessarily complicated along the way the pair stripped things down to their barest essence on this latest outing.
Penny & Sparrow’s music rarely rises above a whisper, but on their third full length effort, the duo demonstrate that a soft approach can often make an emphatic impression. The music resonates with dramatic inflection, often rising in timbre through ominous overtones, but a hushed circumspect manages to dominate the proceedings overall. Still, there’s no lack of gravitas, and on songs such as “Finery,” “Bed Down,” “Until Tomorrow” and “Bon Temps,” the sense of urgency is all but unavoidable.
Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke possess clear vocal talents, but the former Austin duo's determination to draw drama out of their harmonies only drowns the potential power of their songs. The influence of the Civil Wars' John Paul White in production of their third LP may play a part, as Let a Lover Drown You plods with a slow-pulling tension torqued to 11 that hearkens his former outfit. "Finery" swells open strongly, building to stringed crescendo, but the swooning formula wears quickly.