The Handsome Family: Honey Moon (UN SPK)

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The Handsome Family: A Thousand Diamond Rings
The Handsome Family: Honey Moon (UN SPK)

Because we're more used to hearing this husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks in a dourly poetic and dark mood, this album's prevailing sentiments of optimism (as epitomised by its recurrent images from Nature and the themes of love) comes as something of surprise.

There is still that melancholy oldtime music sensibility with banjo, lap steel, violin and so on but -- as with Bonnie Prince Billy's The Letting Go and Lie Down in the Light -- the world seems a brighter place. And although (as always) mundane images of world of today (cars, plastic bags, paper cups rolling down the windy street) impose themselves, there is also the chipper feel of the ballads here delivered as if they were standing around the front parlour piano of an evening and exchanging musical pleasantries.

In some places, The Loneliness of Magnets notably, this almost borders on parody and you'd be forgiven for thinking they were having you on. But it seems the pair are celebrating 20 years of marriage so maybe they've decided this dirty world ain't so bad after all.

It is customarily quirky in the lyric department, but some songs like June Bugs ("I want to kiss you in thickets and dripping wet glades") and the lovely A Thousand Diamond Rings (celebrating the bright beauty of the ordinary) there is a directness which is quite sweet.

Not a patch on their earlier Last Days of Wonder, but "interesting" -- and maybe like those recent Bonnie Prince Billy albums, this may attract more attention than the glummer-than-thou mood of previous albums. 

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