Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Handsome Family

Go To

The Handsome Family is an Alternative Country/Gothic Country Music duo consisting of Creator Couple Brett and Rennie Sparks. The husband-and-wife duo formed the band in Chicago, Illinois in 1993, with Rennie usually writing the lyrics, and Brett usually writing the music. Based since 2001 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they are perhaps best known for the song "Far from Any Road" from the album Singing Bones, which was used as the main title theme for the first season of True Detective.

Their music has been described as "Hank Williams meets Edgar Allan Poe", with their songs being short stories, often taking the form of Murder Ballads and Ghost Stories with a dark and macabre Southern Gothic mood, telling tales of struggling people living on the edge of society, tragic heroes and villains being haunted by their past and meeting with their tragic fate, and Unreliable Narrators struggling against their own madness, though always lightened a bit through by moments of tongue-in-cheek humor shining through. The band itself cites Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt as major influences.


  • Odessa (1994)
  • Milk and Scissors (1996)
  • Invisible Hands (1997)
  • Through the Trees (1998)
  • In the Air (2000)
  • Twilight (2001)
  • Singing Bones (2003)
  • Last Days of Wonder (2006)
  • Honey Moon (2009)
  • Wilderness (2013)
  • Unseen (2016)
  • Hollow (2023)


  • Album Title Drop:
    • "The Dutchboy"
      Because the world is made up of milk and scissors,
      Milk and scissors in a spiralling chain.
      Milk and scissors like a cheap squirting flower,
      Milk and scissors like worms when it rains.
    • Multiple times (counting variations) in "Down In The Valley of Hollow Hogs":
      And the wind howling through the trees

      As the wind tore through the trees
    • "24-Hour Store"
      No, no one hears the singing bones...
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: In "My Sister's Tiny Hands" from the Through the Trees album, the narrator's titular twin sister dies after being bitten by a poisonous snake. The narrator proceeds to attempt to cope by drinking himself into a stupor on cheap whiskey and then goes on a drunken Roaring Rampage of Revenge through the forest where she died, killing every snake in sight with a sharpened stick. Still haunted by the memories of her, namely the sounds of her laughter in the grass and her hands splashing in the river, he proceeds to burn down the forest and dam up the river.
  • Chronic Pet Killer: "So Long" is basically a list of pets and other animals whose deaths the narrator was responsible for.
  • Cover Album: The Shattered album from 2010, featuring amongst others Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby".
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of the songs on Wilderness have one word titles and are named after animals that appear in the songs' lyrics.
  • I Fell for Hours: In "The Bottomless Hole", the narrator discovers "deep, dark hole" behind his barn. After him and his family have used the hole to dispose of garbage and scrap metal for years, he realizes that he has never heard anything hit the bottom of the pit, so he starts to wonder if it is truly bottomless. Deciding to explore further, he gathers all his rope and wires himself down into the hole as far as he cannot possibly go, only to find that even then he still cannot see the bottom. In anger and frustration, he decides to cut the rope holding him up, causing him to fall. By the end of the song, he is still falling down the hole, and is implied to have been falling for a very, very long time at that point (he admits at the start of the song that he cannot remember his own name any more).
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: "Water into Wine" parodies the trope somewhat. The narrator thinks the miracles Jesus performed were all pretty neat, but he thinks what makes him a truly great guy was by far his ability to provide free alcohol to people.
    If you're headed down boy and you can't afford a drink
    I hope this little parable's gonna stop and make you think
    Fear not, brother, take His hand and He'll bring you peace of mind
    He'll crash your evil party and change your water into wine
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Frequently used.
    • "Drunk by Noon" features fairly upbeat-sounding music and lyrics that goes like this:
      And sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird
      Just to remind myself I'll never fly
      And sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes
      Just to pretend I won't scream when I die
    • "Woodpecker" is a jolly little song about a woman having a sudden psychotic break and getting institutionalized.
  • Murder Ballad: A recurring favorite tropes of theirs, with quite a few written from the killer's perspective.
    • "Up Falling Rock Hill" puts a Cain and Abel twist on things:
      Up Falling Rock Hill where the leaves swoop like bats
      I shot my brother William five times in the back
      "Have mercy, have mercy, dear brother!" he cried
      But the wind has no mercy and neither did I
    • In "Arlene", the killer has a rather tenuous grasp on reality, firmly believing that the titular stalking victim is secretly in love with him and describing his eventual abduction and murder of her as a sort of wedding ceremony.