The Handsome Family: Hollow (Loose Music) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Handsome Family


Loose Music

Sep 11, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

June Carter and Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Faith Evans and The Notorious B.I.G. (okay, maybe not the last pair)—all mighty musical marriages, both figuratively and literally, that claim a place in the canon of modern songwriting. The eleventh studio album from the dark, dark minds of husband-and-wife duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks—aka The Handsome Family—cements their own place in that storied list.

The celebration of cement being, of course, precisely what Hollow intends to draw the listener away from. Its esoteric Americana tales, intoned in Brett’s hot chocolate-warm baritone, are in turn both cautionary and celebratory; apt reminders of humankind’s detachment from the natural world.

Songs such as “Two Black Shoes” and album closer “Good Night” touch upon themes of displacement, greed, and consumerism, the latter containing the gloriously tongue in cheek lines, “The crossroads are empty/Satan sleeps in his bunk/We’ll be out by the merch table/After we pack our stuff.”

In counterpoint, Hollow’s universe is replete with squirrels, raccoons, snakes, cats, dogs, moss, mighty oak trees, and, on “Shady Lake,” a pair of white swans with their necks entwined in a love knot. The blissful scene of contentment described in “Strawberry Moon” will send your resting heart rate to an all-time low, while one of the more overt references to the baggage of modern life reveals itself on “To the Oaks”—“Your shiny phone will never know/No electric eye can ever show/The flashes in the branches/The whisper in the oaks.”

Does all this sound gloomy? Not really; this album measures hope against despair in its eulogy on the simple things. Either way, I swear if The Handsome Family were news anchors, they could announce a bulletin on the world’s end, and it would still feel like a warm hug from a beloved great-aunt.

That these 11 songs evoke such solid mental images of their lyrical content is testament to the power of the Sparks’ songwriting capabilities, and the duo’s lasting aptitude for storytelling. And the timely, primal paean to Mother Earth weaving its wonderful way through Hollow is enough to send you off to the woods with no intention of returning. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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