Handsome Family | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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If you told me back in 1998 that the Handsome Family was going to put out a record twice as good as In the Trees, I would've thought you were a bigger hyperbolist than me. But their new album, Last Days of Wonder (Carrot Top), really is that great: they've shrugged off the clunkiness and accidental camp that once made them an acquired taste, honing their sparse and polished orchestration into a precise delivery system for Rennie Sparks's devastatingly beautiful lyrics. Brett Sparks's voice sounds silky and flexible for the first time, which brings extra dignity to lines like "Lying on his bedspread he struggled to breathe / The light bulbs exploded / The air filled with wings." The composition of the songs is just as distinctive: molasses-dark lullabies are a Handsome Family signature now, and here they include "Beautiful William," about a mysterious disappearance, and "Our Blue Sky," a rejection of fundamentalists' superiority complexes. ("Could you love God if he didn't love you more than rivers, snakes, or wind? / Could you share heaven with black buzzing flies?") Curt Kirkwood opens. Thu 7/13, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15.

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