Album: The Handsome Family

Twilight, Loose
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The Independent Culture

Few of their contemporaries have grasped the melancholy nettle of alt.country with quite the alacrity of Brett and Rennie Sparks, aka The Handsome Family, whose apprehension of mortality can be so unfathomably bleak, it borders on the comic. This fifth album is imbued with a sense of the numinous, through songs that characterise animals as agents of the supernatural ("Birds You Cannot See", "White Dog") or seek out the unseen, salvatory spiritual forces at work in the world ("Gravity", "I Know You Are There"). With occasional bowed saw and melodica colouring the desultory guitar and piano settings, it's a record that seems to exist midway between this world and some shadowy parallel plane, with random observations triggering reflections upon, say, the immutable cycles of life. Twilight is certainly aptly titled, with most narratives occurring in the half-light between day and night – a quiet epiphany on the dusk drive home from work ("No One Fell Asleep Alone") or, most memorably, the Hopper-esque tableau of "Snow White Diner", in which the narrator watches from the diner as a suicide car is pulled from a frozen lake. It's the odd, banal details that confirm the event's impact – the old deaf women in the next booth along, whose shocking laughter he finds so comforting. "They make me feel better," sings Brett Sparks, "like I'm drunk on a plane and have forgotten I'm afraid to fly."

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