THE HANDSOME FAMILY

The Handsome Family by Brandon Soder

UNSEEN (2016)

WILDERNESS (2013)

HONEY MOON (2009)

LAST DAYS OF WONDER (2006)

SINGING BONES (2003)

TWILIGHT (2001)

IN THE AIR (2000)

THROUGH THE TREES (1998)

Cult husband and wife duo The Handsome Family will release their 10th studio album ‘Unseen’ on 16 September on Loose. Available on 180g pond green vinyl, CD, download and stream. The album, with its unique mix of country instrumentation and intriguing surrealist lyricism, explores the unseen stories, people and places of the American west, where The Handsome family live – in Albuquerque, New Mexico. ‘Unseen’ shines a light on the obscure and forgotten. The album’s first single, ‘Gold’ is out now. The song is a modern classic murder ballad set against a backdrop of “wide empty streets, the air shaking with heat.” ‘Gold’ paints intense images of a protagonist, with snake tattoos, a ski mask, and gun shot wounds – all the result of feeling “hungry to do something mean”. The first track on the album – ‘Gold’ is the beginning of a journey taking the listener “past the last lights of town” – driving us into the unknown – a place familiar to The Handsome Family.

 

In 2015 Rennie and Brett Sparks saw their song ‘Far From Any Road’ about “fire ants on their drive way” picked by American actor Matthew McConaughey to be the theme tune to the HBO TV smash hit: “True Detective”.

 

Rennie Sparks describes an event that personified the band’s strange experience of being propelled into a surreal state of limbo by their post True Detective fame, when she miraculously disappeared in an airport. Rennie stated: “At the height of True Detective S1 excitement I disappeared one afternoon while waiting for a flight at O’Hare. A middle-aged businessman, McDonald’s bag in one hand, rolling-bag handle in the other — walked up to me and, without pause, turned and sat down on my lap. A second later his French fries and rolling bag were on the floor and he was sputtering apologies, insisting he’d seen an empty chair. This strange invisibility felt similar to the night Brett and I watched the series in our little house in Albuquerque, feeling oddly alone. I have learned to embrace my power to vanish. As a songwriter you have to be willing to disappear and let your songs outshine you in order to embrace points of view bigger than your own. It was great that a song written about ants in my driveway became a song about cops in Louisiana. That’s the best any songwriter can hope for. ”

 

And so Rennie happily remained invisible, even as the band became visible to millions, with Youtube counts for The Handsome Family’s ‘hit’ song climbing to twenty million and more. The song was in the top 10 in US and UK Spotify charts and spent months in the iTunes top 100 in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, South Africa, and the Ukraine.

 

‘Unseen’ continues The Handsome Family’s embrace of things beyond easy view: the slow dive of the sun, enormous bugs awakening in thorny yards, sirens and coyotes that cry out to the purple sky. ‘Unseen’, an epic western gothic masterpiece, draws from real life events. ‘Gold’ began when a bunch of twenty-dollar bills blew in Brett’s face in a parking-lot dust storm. ‘Gentlemen’, is a tribute to William Crookes who built the first vacuum tube in 1875, hoping to detect spirits from unseen dimensions. Many tracks fix around the idea that light that emanates from things we can’t see — behind “The Red Door,” in the empty hands of blackjack losers (“The Silver Light”), and amidst desert bones bleaching in the sun (“King of Dust”).

 

‘Unseen’ was recorded by Brett at his home studio at night – “with only hawk moths listening”. It features a rich tapestry of instrumentation, which conjures images of the magical landscape of the Sparks’ New Mexico surroundings. David Gutierrez plays mandolin on “Tiny Tina” and dobro on “The Silver Light.” Alex MacMahon: guitar on “The Silver Light,” baritone guitar and pedal steel on “Gold.” Jason Toth: drums throughout (except “Green Willow Valley”). Rennie wrote all the lyrics. She sang and played banjo and autoharp, but “didn’t bother to write down on which songs.”

 

The Sparks have released 10 albums since 1995’s Odessa. Their songs have been covered by countless Youtubers and well-known artists like Jeff Tweedy, Amanda Palmer, Cerys Matthews, Christy Moore and Andrew Bird (who released an entire record of HF covers). Guns ’N’ Roses used, “Far From Any Road” as stage entrance music for a South American tour, and both Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr are fans. Decades into their careers, after winning the TV theme tune jackpot — the Sparks still find their greatest reward in disappearing into new songs.

 

Unseen, the new album from The Handsome Family, will be released 16th September on Loose. Available on 180g pond green vinyl, CD and download.

The Handsome Family - Through The Trees

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Through The Trees 20th Anniversary LP

Release date: 07 March 2018

Catalogue no.: VJLP105LTD

Formats: Heavyweight Sky Blue Vinyl

1. Weightless Again

2. My Sister’s Tiny Hands

3. Stalled

4. Where The Birch Trees Lean

5. Cathedrals

6. Down in the Ground

7. The Giant of Illinois

8. Down in the Valley of Hollow Logs

9. I Fell

10. The Woman Downstairs

11. Last Night I Went Out Walking

12. Bury Me Here

13. My Ghost

The Handsome Family - Unseen

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Unseen

Release date: 17 September 2016

Catalogue no.: VJCD229

Formats: CD / Digital / Heavyweight Pond Green Vinyl

 

Download hi-res artwork

1. Gold

2. The Silver Light

3. Back in my Day

4. Tiny Tina

5. Underneath the Falls

6. The Sea Rose

7. The Red Door

8. Gentlemen

9. King of Dust

10. Green Willow Valley

The Handsome Family - Wilderness

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Wilderness

Release date: 20 May 2013

Catalogue no.: VJCD210

Formats: CD / Digital / Vinyl

1. Flies

2. Frogs

3. Eels

4. Octopus

5. Owls

6. Caterpillars

7. Glow Worm

8. Lizard

9. Woodpecker

10. Gulls

11. Spider

12. Wildebeest

HF-HoneyMoon

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Honey Moon

Release date: 20 April 2009

Catalogue no.: VJCD185

Formats: CD / Digital

1. Linger, Let Me Linger

2. Little Sparrows

3. My Friend

4. When You Whispered

5. The Loneliness Of Magnets

6. June Bugs

7. A Thousand Diamond Rings

8. Love Is Like

9. The Petrified Forest

10. Wild Wood

11. Darling, My Darling

12. The Winding Corn Maze

HF_LastDaysOfWonder

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Last Days of Wonder

Release date: 29 May 2006

Catalogue no.: VJCD2166

Formats: CD / Digital

1. Your Great Journey

2. Tesla’s Hotel Room

3. These Golden Jewels

4. After We Shot the Grizzly

5. Flapping Your Broken Wings

6. Beautiful William

7. All the Time in Airports

8. White Lights

9. Bowling Alley Bar

10. Hunter Green

11. Our Blue Sky

12. Somewhere Else To Be

The Handsome Family - Singing Bones

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Singing Bones

Release date: 13 October 2003

Catalogue no.: VJCD144

Formats: CD / Digital

1. The Forgotten Lake

2. Gail With The Golden Hair

3. 24-Hour Store

4. The Bottomless Hole

5. Far From Any Road

6. If The World Should End In Fire

7. A Shadow Underneath

8. Dry Bones

9. Fallen Peaches

10. Whitehaven

11. Sleepy

12. The Song Of A Hundred Toads

13. If The World Should End In Ice

HF-TWILIGHT

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Twilight

Release date: 01 September 2001

Catalogue no.: VJCD126

Formats: CD / Digital

1. The Snow White Diner

2. Passenger Pigeons

3. A Dark Eye

4. There Is A Sound

5. All The TV’s In Town

6. Gravity

7. Cold, Cold, Cold

8. No One Fell Asleep Alone

9. I Know You Are There

10. Birds You Cannot See

11. The White Dog

12. So Long

13. Peace In The Valley Once Again

HF-InTheAir

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: In The Air

Release date: 15 February 2000

Catalogue no.: VJCD112

Formats: CD / Digital

1. Don’t Be Scared

2. The Sad Milkman

3. In The Air

4. A Beautiful Thing

5. So Much Wine

6. Up Falling Rock Hill

7. Poor, Poor Lenore

8. When The Helicopter Comes

9. Grandmother Waits For You

10. Lie Down

11. My Beautiful Bride

The Handsome Family - Through The Trees

Artist: The Handsome Family

Title: Through The Trees

Release date: 26 January 1998

Catalogue no.: VJCD105

Formats: CD / Digital

1. Weightless Again

2. My Sister’s Tiny Hands

3. Stalled

4. Where The Birch Trees Lean

5. Cathedrals

6. Down in the Ground

7. The Giant of Illinois

8. Down in the Valley of Hollow Logs

9. I Fell

10. The Woman Downstairs

11. Last Night I Went Out Walking

12. Bury Me Here

13. My Ghost

Through The Trees 20th Anniversary LP (2018)

“Bewitching in its weirdness, Through The Trees and its bonus CD of demos, live performances “and bickering” is almost comically unsettling, a unique fermentation of gothic country. Seven albums later the quality has rarely dipped, but this is where the magic first revealed itself.”
★★★★
MOJO

“a defining work by Brett and Rennie Sparks and an inescapably intense listening experience that excels in mood and storytelling. A tentpole release for the developing Americana scene back in the day… one of Americana’s more eclectic records. To their credit, they moved the genre forward, paving the way for greater eccentricity and experimentation.”
THE LINE OF BEST FIT

“it stands as a testament to the odd brilliance of their songs”
8/10
UNCUT

Unseen (2016)

“Unseen is The Handsome Family’s masterpiece”
★★★★
MOJO

“Rennie Sparks, master of the desert surreal”
“better than the entire second season of True Detective and most of the first as well.”
‘GOLD’ – #6 TOP 50 SONGS OF 2016
AMERICAN SONGWRITER

“Beguiling tenth album from American husband and wife duo”
‘UNSEEN’ – #47 BEST ALBUMS OF 2016
8/10

UNCUT

‘UNSEEN’ – #5 BEST COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2016
CLASSIC ROCK

“love, harmony and poetry bind in a brilliant way to obscure beats”
★★★★
ROLLING STONE FRANCE

“Brilliant.”
★★★★
THE INDEPENDENT

“Another low-key masterpiece wrapped in spooky twanging guitars, heartbroken harmonies, droning tempos and lyrics that often don’t rhyme, delivered in Brett Sparks’ deadpan, rumbling baritone.”
9.5/10
MAGNET

“it will be a tough assignment to find a better opening verse this year in music than the one that opens Gold”
“Rennie allowed her imagination to take hold and instead came up with a wild and wonderful tale of violent crime and small town justice. It’s what makes her such an amazing storyteller, and when accompanied by Brett’s sweeping orchestration, makes the duo such a solid and unique musical act.”
8/10
GLIDE MAGAZINE

“Singular alt country duo at their Gothic finest with songs filled with ghosts, wonders and mystery”
★★★★
DAILY MIRROR

“Common wisdom holds that the duo’s finest album is Through The Trees. It may be time to revise that. Look and listen.”
FOLK RADIO

“Ten songs to woo you, attractive and amorous, some might say ‘andsome”
★★★★★
MUSIC-NEWS

“You’ve never heard anyone like The Handsome Family, and you never will. Comparisons to any other are futile. Grab this one up and you’ll wear it out.”
FARCE THE MUSIC

“Beautifully atmospheric late night listening”
8/10
OUTLINE MAGAZINE

Sublime… immerse yourself in something ‘other’, something dark and beautiful and beyond compare
★★★★★
NARC

“Fifteen million YouTube hits later and Rennie and Brett are back with an exquisitely recorded album of midnight dark American folk music, enigmatic and fantastic tales of coyotes, cicadas, sunsets and the reflection of the moon on water.”
NE:MM

“cowboy folk music for spectres and old gods like if Johnny Cash read the Necronomicon”
NOW THEN MAGAZINE

“This is perhaps the quintessential Handsome Family album”
FATEA

“The elemental, organic, homespun music of the Handsome Family occupies a place somewhere between Nick Cave’s and The Band’s. Timeless and sepia-toned, deep and dark, it seems to inhabit a parallel dimension of Americana, one with its own legends and terrors, one where time has warped… Instead of a cult band, they could be a real cult.”
NO DEPRESSION

★★★★
BUZZ IRELAND

★★★★
IRISH TIMES

★★★★
BELFAST TELEGRAPH

“a bluegrass, folky storytelling masterpiece”
★★★★
BUZZ WALES

“Imagine Nick Cave had grown up in the American West, raised on a diet of country music – The lyrics are completely gripping.”
★★★★
EXPRESS AND STAR

“The Handsome Family certainly know what they are doing and they are still doing it pretty darn well.”
GIGSOUP

“With all its soft unquiet Unseen stands with the most captivating of the pair’s previous work.”
#13 – BEST AMERICANA ALBUMS OF 2016
PETERBOROUGH TELEGRAPH

Only the Handsomes could carry off the story of a miniature horse, Tiny Tina, with such aplomb or sing meaningfully about “beefy nachos, chicken wings, all you can eat buffet
★★★★
THE SUN

“Many bands talk about being unique. Few are. This one is. There’s no one that sounds quite like The Handsome Family, and no one goes about it in the way do.”
MAXIMUM VOLUME MUSIC

“they really have no equal – The Handsome Family remain a singular delight and long may they do so”
BLABBER N SMOKE

Wilderness (2013)

“‘Wilderness’ should deservedly scoop the same critical plaudits as previous ‘Family outings, the latest entry into the band’s extensive canon of outstanding work.”
PENNYBLACK MUSIC

NO.6 IN UNCUT’S BEST AMERICANA ALBUMS OF 2013
★★★★
UNCUT

★★★★
Q

★★★★
MOJO

“Words that in their everyday surrealism have no parallel in contemporary writing…music that mines the deep veins of fatalism in the Appalachian voice.”
GREIL MARCUS
THE OBSERVER’S HIDDEN GEMS OF 2013

★★★★½
THE SUN

★★★★
NO DEPRESSION

★★★★
MAVERICK

“Their new recording brought to mind a focus and refinement to the weirdness and the weirder they get the more I like ‘um.”
KURT WAGNER (LAMBCHOP)

★★★★½
COUNTRY MUSIC PEOPLE

“I think Rennie Sparks and Vic Chestnutt are the two greatest lyricists of the last 20 years.”
CARL NEWMAN (AC NEWMAN, NEW PORNOGRAPHERS)

Live Reviews

“they cast a mesmeric, almost meditative spell over the audience with their midnight dark urban folk Rennie’s barbarous short story lyrics all sharp edged lustre”
AMERICANA UK

“Catch these American treasures while you can, especially if you like your family affairs a little more Addams than nuclear”
ROCKSHOT

THROUGH THE TREES 20th ANNIVERSARY LP (2018)
UNSEEN (2016)
WILDERNESS (2013)