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Last Days of Wonder

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Audio CD, June 13, 2006
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listen  1. Your Great Journey 3:13$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Tesla's Hotel Room 3:57$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. These Golden Jewels 3:32$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  4. After We Shot the Grizzly 3:33$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Flapping Your Broken Wings 3:46$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Beautiful William 4:22$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  7. All the Time in Airports 3:43$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  8. White Lights 3:36$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Bowling Alley Bar 2:52$0.89  Buy MP3 
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Enter the dark forest of The Handsome Family and let the beautiful branches surround you. This is haunting music in the most wonderful way— brilliant, emotionally-charged and totally unique.

The Handsome Family is a 20-year songwriting collaboration between husband and wife, Brett (music) and Rennie Sparks (words). Their lyrics and music are very intense, highly descriptive and ... Read more in Amazon's The Handsome Family Store

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 13, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: 2006
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Carrot Top Records
  • ASIN: B000F8DTLO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,699 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

2006 release, the seventh studio album from the Alt-Country/Americana outfit. The Handsome Family were formed in 1993 by husband and wife duo Brett Sparks and Rennie Sparks. The band, born and bred in Chicago before migrating to Albuquerque, play a unique blend of traditional Country, Bluegrass, and murder ballads. Rennie's lyrics have a strong storytelling component, drawing on themes from Gothic fiction, as well as American folk music, and often involving macabre subjects as murders, suicides and ghosts. The album features musical assistance from David Coutler, Stephen Dorocke, David Gutierrez, Eric Johnson and Amanda Kooser.


Beginning with an image of cosmic apocalypse and ending with a cosmic joke about going nowhere (yet always having somewhere else to be), Brett and Rennie Sparks use their first album in three years, and their most beautiful and accessible since Through the Trees, to explore the magical and disturbing intersections between the human, natural, and spiritual worlds. Recorded at home in Albuquerque, the album unfolds like a country-folk operetta (mostly composed by Rennie) set in idyllic and mysterious locales: haunted suburbia, peaceful but slightly malevolent strip malls, confession-inspiring bowling alleys, and lovesick airports. When they move to the exotic location of a shipwrecked island on "After We Shot the Grizzly," they borrow from Bob Dylan's cryptic "Isis," and make the random, mythic violence their own. Small moments of ennui, whether feeding pigeons in New York or watching kids paint graffiti, reveal unpredictable and unsettling dreams, and the delicate Americana instrumentation only sounds quaint on the surface. French horns, droning bass notes, clippity-clop drums, pedal steel (from Stephen Dorocke of Freakwater), and musical saw (from David Coulter, who has worked with Tom Waits) give even the most macabre songs--not to mention Brett Sparks' Johnny-Cash-on-Thorazine vocals--a light, playful air of discovery and wonder. --Roy Kasten

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Bryant on June 20, 2006
Format: Audio CD
A month ago I had heard of the Handsome Family but never heard them. Now that I have please forgive the following hyperbole, it is the ardour felt for a new love.

Their new album Last Days of Wonder does just what it says on the tin. It asks in a cycle of songs varying from ones that could have been sung in Elizabeth the First's court (Hunter Green) to scary, but funny tunes that will be sung and strummed, no doubt, for years to come around the campfire (After We Shot the Grizzly) to waltzes (Telsa's Hotel Room). But taken as a whole they are asking is science about to remove all sense of wonder from our world, and are we happy about that? This is a profound question but it is asked in a round about way that approaches through the cumulative effect of learning these wonderful songs and not dry and dusty like Philosophy 101. They are asking you to clap your hands if you believe in fairies or magic or have ever felt awe; otherwise all that will be left is the whirl of machines and digital analysis.

And with the incredible song writing team of Brett and Rennie Sparks producing such tunes you are going to be clapping your hands a lot - lovely stories to make you laugh and shiver, they possess so much `back story' that you can pack your bags and spend your vacation in there.

But back to my first question - are they perfect? Well, no. They have tended their very unique garden well but sometimes listening to these exquisite melodies I wish that a superstar producer might have been at the helm, a Daniel Lanois or Rick Rubin (but oh no not Eno) to really get them to take wing fully and reach the stratosphere, but it is hard to believe that such genius songwriters haven't had the opportunity to take that path but have commendably chosen not to.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brer Tarp on June 13, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This album marks a change in the Handsome Family canon. Continuing with the slower-paced tradition of their last album, "Singing Bones," this album finds Brett and Rennie Sparks delving into a varitey of topics that somewhat differ from their usual tales of darker fare. Rennie's economical but effective writing shines as bright as ever in the lyrical department, while Brett's songwriting continues to mature and blossom. While the first two tracks start out slowly, one, of the ensuing tracks has an almost Tom Waits feel, while another track features distorted guitar and a moog synth. In another band's hands, these differences could seem jarring, but the Handsome Family does so with ease, making the production changes feel natural and evenly placed. This is another stellar album in a long line of fine work from this under-appreciated group.
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Format: Audio CD
I often think of Rennie Sparks as a roots-music Lorelai Gilmore: her mind racing from one connection to the next while the rest of us watch her points of reference fly by. She's the type of writer I aspire to be: wonderfully funny without being cloying, fanciful while grounded, and morbid in all the best ways. She's one of our most important lyricists and good fortune allowed her to be paired with Brett, who knows how to pair her words with music that sounds timeless, and who sings with the type of grave baritone that makes it all sound so important, and who can really play.

I love all their albums, but this, their most recent as of this writing, is my favorite: "Bowling Alley Bar," "After We Shot the Grizzly," "Tesla's Hotel Room," "All the Time in Airports" and especially "Flapping Your Broken Wings" being among the best of all the Sparks/Sparks songs.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Wind in Hare on September 22, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Maybe it's just me, but am I missing something here? After I had read the reviews of this album, already being a big Handsome Family fan, I had expected Last Days to deliver in the HF tradition. It doesn't.

Gone is the eerie feel, the other worldiness of HF's previous albums. Instead, this is an insipid lineup of what I would characterize as 'ordinary country' tunes. It isn't that the lyrics miss their mark, but they lack their usual impact because the melodies (and the production) don't support the spirit of the song's story. "Poor Lenore", "White Dog", or "Fallen Peaches" don't pull the listener in only because of well-crafted, Poe-esque lyrics. It's also Brett's belief in what he's singing, no matter how softly, that helps take us out to the desert (or frozen field). This album feels passionless to me, as if Brett himself doesn't really believe in them. The songs just wind up being middle of the road, I've-heard-this-before country tunes one could toast marshmallows to, or sort laundry. Handsome Family could tour alongside Willie Nelson with this album.

If you like your soup room temperature, if you've never stepped up to a hole in the ground and wondered what was at the bottom, if you prefer travelling the well-lit highways instead of the backroads, you'll probably like this album. If you are a Handsome Family fan looking for more dead passenger pigeons, pass this one over and order yourself one of the other Handsome Family releases. That's exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I've completed this review. (Suggested albums by THF: "Twilight" and "Singing Bones" are equally wonderful followed by "In the Air" and "Through the Trees, respectively.
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