The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Review: Pennyhawk — Another Layer

By Max Johnson

Pennyhawk (straight outta Ames, Iowa) is lead by Kate Kennedy. Fans of Christopher the Conquered, Mumford’s, and Leslie and the Ly’s might be familiar with Kennedy. It’s interesting to note that she’s found herself in those three groups, all of which are fronted by huge, boisterous personalities.

Pennyhawk’s latest release, the 4-song EP “Another Layer”, begins with the song “Timid Women.” Here, Kennedy channels a voice not at all unlike Leslie Hall – humorous, a little vulgar, and brimming with an “I-will-never-ever-care-what-you-think” attitude. The song establishes the honky tonk/gypsy folk sound to come.

The last two songs, “Lily-Livid” and “W(rest)ler”, are where Pennyhawk really shine. “Lily-Livid” is a minor waltz with piano, guitar, and clarinet appearing throughout. In the middle of the song, though, the instruments drop out and are replaced with harmonized vocals – like good friends coming over to cheer up the song, help it move on. “W(rest)ler” is like a tears-in-beers ballad that fans of old-school Mirah records will love, its plain-spoken honesty bordering on twee (but in the best way possible, of course).

Dressed in the clothes of indie rock, or even cast in the light of Mumford’s/Christopher the Conquered’s horn-dance-rock, Kennedy could potentially be bull-dozered by the songs. Instead, she indulges nothing, commands every second of the four songs. Thus, they all sound finished – a description that fewer and fewer songwriters seem to be working towards. Though perhaps not as wild as Logsdon, Ford, or Hall – Kennedy is certainly not just another timid woman.

Hear here!