For my parents’ twentieth wedding anniversary, my sisters threw a surprise party at a local cricket club, thus postponing their nightly argument for at least another hour. For Rennie and Brett Sparks, they made ‘Honey Moon’; everything in it feels authentic, down to the warts-and-all inner-sleeve photo of the pair in a corn field, unsoiled by photoshop. The Handsome Family’s previous albums – such as the brilliant ‘Through The Trees’ – have focused on Rennie’s lyrics of the loves, deaths and sorrows of gothic American folklore set to the warm home-grown alt-country that Brett writes so well. ‘Honey Moon’ by contrast is like a binge on milkshakes and prozac. I’m not saying it’s overwhelmingly cheerful (it’s not), but it all hangs on an remarkably positive note, even the grieving ‘My Friend’ sounds hopeful, even when all hope is gone. The majority of the album though is taken up by love songs and a fair few are just wonderful (‘When You Whispered’). The lyrics make realism seem romantic and romanticism seem realistic; it’s the way it’s all pulled off that makes it so believable. It takes two or three extra listens to get into (the over-dramatic chorus on ‘The Loneliness of Magnets’ on its own takes some getting used to), but it’s worth it when you do.
Earlier I said that ‘Honey Moon’ is largely taken up by love songs. By that I don’t mean the initial euphoria of love; it’s when the first thrills have passed and they’re replaced by the feeling of being two inseparable halves; something that is seldom done and hardly ever done well. Long story short, it’s unashamedly (and genuinely) romantic and all the more charming for it. One or two just fall short of the mark (‘Linger Let Me Linger’, ‘The Loneliness of Magnets’) but grow on the listener with time. It’s great warm country with imagery you could eat (“Love is like a white moth sipping tears from sleeping birds”). Plus try to sit through ‘Little Sparrows’ without smiling. To the happy couple.
Listen to this: on a warm sunny evening.
Key track: When You Whispered