Written and recorded over the past year, Penny and Sparrow’s remarkable new album, Olly Olly, is a work of liberation and revelation, a full-throated embrace of the self from a band that’s committed to leaving no stone unturned in their tireless quest for actualization. The songs here are fearless and introspective, embracing growth and change as they reckon with desire, intimacy, doubt, and regret, and the arrangements are similarly bold and thoughtful, augmenting the duo’s rich, hypnotic brand of chamber folk with electronic flourishes and R&B grooves. The duo—Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke—produced Olly Olly themselves, working on their own without an outside collaborator for the first time, and the result is the purest, most authentic act of artistic self-expression the pair have ever achieved.
“Andy and I talk about the process of making this record like a sort of musical Rumspringa,” Jahnke says. “It was an opportunity to truly become ourselves, to evolve outside of the roles we’d been put in—or put ourselves in—because of the way we’d grown up.”
Texas natives Baxter and Jahnke first crossed paths at UT Austin, where they developed a fast friendship and a deeply symbiotic musical connection. Jahnke was a gifted guitarist with an ear for melody, Baxter, an erudite lyricist with a mesmerizing voice and crystalline falsetto, and the duo quickly found that their vocals blended together as if they’d been singing in harmony their whole lives. Beginning with 2013’s ‘Tenboom,’ the staunchly DIY pair released a series of critically lauded records that garnered comparisons to the hushed intimacy of Iron & Wine and the adventurous beauty of Bon Iver, building up a devoted fanbase along the way through relentless touring and word-of-mouth buzz. NPR praised the band’s songwriting as a “delicate dance between heartache and resolve,” while Rolling Stone hailed their catalog as “folk music for Sunday mornings, quiet evenings, and all the fragile moments in between.” The duo’s most recent album, 2019’s Finch, marked a turning point in their career, pushing their sound to experimental new heights as it wrestled with notions of masculinity and religion and transformation in deeper, more personal ways than ever before. The record debuted at #2 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and was met with a rapturous response from critics and audiences alike, racking up more than 40 million streams on Spotify and earning the band their biggest headline tour to date.