For The Handsome Family music is a safe place to express ‘terrifying things’
— Fresh Air with Terry Gross, NPR
‘Unseen’ is The Handsome Family’s masterpiece—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
As songwriters it’s the eerie, ancestral voice of ‘Anonymous’ they ultimately
resemble the most —CHICAGO READER
Through the Trees (1998)—10 essential Americana records of all time — MOJO
In the Air (2000) —One of the most important records of the 21st century — UNCUT
“Weightless Again”—100 best songs ever written about heartbreak— THE GUARDIAN, UK
Husband and wife duo The Handsome Family released their 10th studio album ‘Unseen’ on September 16th via Virtual Label, their first release since their unexpected worldwide fame when their song “Far From Any Road” was picked as the True Detective Season 1 theme song. With its unique mix of country instrumentation and intriguing surrealist lyricism, the album explores the unseen stories, people, and places of the American West, where members Brett and Rennie Sparks live (Albuquerque, NM) and shines a light on the obscure and forgotten.
‘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. An epic western gothic masterpiece, ‘Unseen’ draws from real life events. “Gold” first began when a bunch of twenty-dollar bills blew in Brett’s face in a parking lot dust storm and “Gentlemen” is a tribute to William Crookes who built the first vacuum tube in 1875, hoping to detect spirits from alternate dimensions. Many tracks fix around the idea that light emanates from things we can’t see, including 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”).
The album was recorded in the Sparks’ home studio at night “with only hawk moths listening” and features a rich tapestry of instrumentation which conjures images of the magical landscape of the Sparks’ New Mexico surroundings. Guest performers on the record include David Gutierrez (mandolin, dobro), Alex McMahon (guitar, baritone guitar, pedal steel), and Jason Toth (drums).
The Sparks have released 10 albums since 1995’s Odessa. Their songs have been covered by artists including Jeff Tweedy, Amanda Palmer, and Andrew Bird (who released an entire record of Handsome Family 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.