The Handsome Family boasts a pretty incredible catalog 20 years into the band's career. This year's offering, Wilderness, extends the band's distortion of typical Americana vibes deeper into the burly forest musicians Brett and Rennie Sparks have been cultivating over many albums.
There's something charming about naming each track after particular animals ("Eels," "Glow Worm," "Gulls," etc.). But the charm quickly transmogrifies into something a bit more unsettling. The music - beautifully crafted melodies, jaunty rhythmic work - mirrors the experience of walking through a twilit woods with naught but a naive guess at what lies just beyond the shadows of the trees.
Check out "Octopus," which details the frozen terrain of loneliness. Lyrics, etched out by Rennie, capture the more profound intersections of human life and the natural world - intersections that all too often go unnoticed. She has a talent for drawing the anthropomorphic influence of animals into the light and, inevitably, in our hearts.
A definite highlight comes via "Woodpecker," which merges true crime with the esoteric flashes of beauty that dreamers can still find throughout the world. Rennie's banjo work is delightful on this track, lilting gently on top of Brett's more reserved guitar strumming.
Listen: Summer is coming. This music is great for just hanging out on the porch, kicking some cocktails around and perhaps leaning back and whittling a twig of oak. New Music Tuesday heartily endorses Dan Moulthrop's "go-to" drink, the Woodrow Wilson. "It's a gin and tonic with a splash of grapefruit and a lime. Served in a pint glass."
Now cue up The Handsome Family and pour yr'self a Woodrow.