It’s been a year of unease. Neo-Nazis, hurricanes, and threatening tweets sent by orange-tinged fingers have left me wondering, “What’s next?”

Wendigo , the latest album from indie folk duo Penny and Sparrow (Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke), didn’t answer that question for me. Rather, their somber melodies provided something I didn’t realize I needed—space to confront the uncertainty.

According to Chippewa poet Louise Erdrich, the wendigo “is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it.” Some Indigenous communities see environmental destruction, exclusion, and greed as indicators of “wendigo psychosis.”

Many wendigos seemed to appear after the 2016 election. Not just in the White House, but also in families, friends, and neighbors. The song “Kin” calls to mind Thanksgiving dinner with pecan pie and family members-turned-strangers. “Where the hell did your spine go? / Did you cut it out? / Did it never grow?” the lyrics ask.

 

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