The Handsome Family in Leeds
The Handsome Family
Irish Centre, Leeds
Sunday 12th May 2024, £22.50
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The Handsome Familys new record began with a scream in the night. It was a bleak winter during the middle of the pandemic, says Brett Sparks. One night around 4 a.m. Rennie started screaming in her sleep. She screamed, Come into the circle Joseph! Theres no moon tonight. Scary as it was, I thought, man, thats a good chorus! The Handsome Family (songwriting and marriage partners Brett and Rennie Sparks) have been defining the dark end of americana for over 30 years. Brett writes the music and Rennie writes the words. Their work has been covered by many artists including Jeff Tweedy, Andrew Bird and most-recently Phoebe Bridgers. Their song Far From Any Road was the opening theme for HBOs True Detective season one and still receives thousands of Shazams every week from all over the world.
Handsome Family songs take place under overpasses and inside airports. Historical figures like George A. Custer and Nikola Tesla appear alongside a flying milkman and the whisper of an air conditioner against a plastic tree.
Their eleventh studio album, Hollow (out Sep. 8, 2023) delves into the natural world at the edges of the man-made. It is a record lush with leaves and shadows and echoing with occult mystery.
It begins with the dream-inspired Joseph full of Mott the Hoople swagger and electric guitar so overdriven it sounds like an organ run through a vacuum cleaner. Next is the haunting Two Black Shoes which filters a Portishead groove through the highway motels, homeless encampments and McMansions of post-pandemic America.
I wanted to get an electronic feel with organic drums, says Brett, So I chopped up our drummers takes into little bits, quantized the beats, and ran those through an Echoplex. I really like that hybrid of real and fake.
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