The first time I listened to Undlin & Wolfe’s new album, I found myself replaying the last two songs again and again, caught between the soulfulness of “Heart of the Wood” (particularly at the 2:45 mark, when singer Siri Undlin lets it rip) and the aching beauty of the title track “How Far.” I felt invited into these two energies—the fierceness and the softness, the wildness and the wondering.
This is the first full-length album from the alt-folk duo, who met years ago at a performing-arts high school in Minnesota. Their music is earnest and intimate, sparse yet smart, and you can feel its ancestry in the odes to northern life, whether it’s the woods of the Midwest or the winds of Reykjavik, where Siri spent time studying how different cultures use music to tell stories.
The stories being told in this album are ones of love, loss, inner and outer exploration, and deep connection to nature, as in the poetic “Canopy,” where Siri sings, “I will crawl into the earth and let her cradle me.”
Dexter and Siri are talented musicians who harmonize beautifully together, and each imprints a different feel as they trade off on lead vocals. I found myself most drawn in by Siri’s haunting voice on songs like “Ruin,” “Reykjavik,” and “Heart of the Wood,” which was inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book “Women Who Run with the Wolves.” With lines like “There are beasts between these trees / I am no less than the least of these,” Siri captures how we as women are intricately tied to the wildness of nature.
“‘[It] was very much inspired by ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves,’” says Siri. “Mostly the idea that being a strong, wild woman has nothing to do with avoiding adversity and that if you’re able to truly embody the spirit we inherit from our female ancestors, we will surely have our hearts broken. Again and again.”
From its heartbreak to its quiet joys, this album feels like fitting background music for this time of year: both lovely and a little melancholy, inviting us to cozy up and turn inward.
Find the album on Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon. And check out "Reykjavik" below: