Lord knows many folks fell in love with The Handsome Family for the first time in 2014 when the married duo's "Far From Any Road" was the theme song on killer season one of HBO's True Detective. (Boy did that tune's deceptive ghoul-country fit the show's eerie subtexts.) But since the mid-'90s, The Handsome Family have been masterfully blending swampy twang, fractured laments, and bent John D. Loudermilk-style country with haunting folk and deadpan deliveries. They've managed to capture the moldy, creepy south too, Flannery O' Connor's south. It's where things are never as they seem, where heavier forces appear to be at work, and subtle truths are revealed through troubled characters with unpredictable tragic flaws. But there's lots of empathy and comedic turns too. Indeed, the Handsome Family are remarkably literate, and their well-crafted, strangely beautiful songs are compulsively listenable. They've been imitated too, a lot, laughably so. Their latest full-length (their 11th), Unseen, is drawn from tangible obscurios, animal or otherwise, from the American west. It's earning mad props in requisite critical circles (NPR, natch) and universally accepted as an "epic western goth masterpiece." Here Rennie and Brett Sparks pick the albums that changed their lives. See them live with Drunken Prayer on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress. 8 p.m. 21+. $12-$15.
1. Vic Chesnutt—Little: Taught us that words in songs could be great art.
2. The Beatles—Revolver: This was the record where the studio finally became an instrument in of itself.
3. Bach—Goldberg Variations: Perfection, especially the recording by Keith Jarrett on harpsichord.
4. Desmond Dekker—The Best of Desmond Dekker: So bittersweet, so soaring and happy, so desolate.
5. Music of the Baka Forest People—Heart of the Forest: They play the river with their hands, creating "water drumming" through splashing hands. It's gorgeous and always makes us happy to listen to even in our darkest moods.