Review: Penny and Sparrow push past Americana in 'Olly Olly'

  • This cover image released by I Love You / Thirty Tigers shows "Olly Olly" by Penny and Sparrow. (I Love You / Thirty Tigers via AP)

    This cover image released by I Love You / Thirty Tigers shows "Olly Olly" by Penny and Sparrow. (I Love You / Thirty Tigers via AP) Associated Press

Updated 1/21/2022 2:57 PM

'œOlly Olly,' Penny and Sparrow (I Love You / Thirty Tigers)

In the first few unassuming bars of Penny and Sparrow's new album, 'œOlly Olly,' it is not immediately apparent that this collection of songs signifies a shift for duo Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke.


'œAdeline' is a stripped-back love song that is both existential and hopeful. Reach the 2:40 mark, though, and subtle distortions that echo the style of Bon Iver tease what the next 11 tracks will show - that Penny and Sparrow are ready to push beyond the Americana bounds that they are known for.

'œOlly Olly' leans into a playfulness despite somber references that sets it apart from their past six studio albums. The two experiment with genres and sounds outside of their typical wheelhouse, from R&B to electronic touches. What makes the record more impressive is that it was done by Baxter and Jahnke themselves, without an outside producer.

There's 'œBaking in the Summer,' a song about sex, drugs and baking rolls, with double (and sometimes triple) entendres. A highlight on the album is 'œOver-Under-Lude' featuring Tobe Nwigwe. The unexpected pairing with Nwigwe's rap, R&B and soul influences create an intoxicating track that departs from anything the duo has released.

Also on the album is the nostalgic 'œNeed You' that sounds like a summer day and the urgent 'œAlabama Haint' that makes the perfect comparison between an undefined relationship and a spirit that is hard to shake ('œAre you gone? Are you not?'). 'œCheyenne' takes you off-guard with an unexpected dark turn.

The freedom of 'œOlly Olly' and the willingness of Penny and Sparrow to explore new ground charges the album with life. If this record is any indication of what's to come for the duo, audiences can count on being pleasantly surprised.

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