The Handsome Family & Opinions on Lady Gaga

The Handsome Family

The Handsome Family gained wider notoriety for providing the theme to HBO’s True Detective. But the duo’s dark, literate songwriting has been acclaimed by critics for decades. Rennie and Brett Sparks of The Handsome Family join Jim and Greg for a conversation and performance. Plus, a review of the new album from pop superstar Lady Gaga.

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The Handsome Family

This week, Jim and Greg talk with southwestern music duo The Handsome Family. The band is the husband-wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks, and they are perhaps best known for providing the theme song for the first season of HBO’s critically acclaimed drama True Detective. However, the duo had been a staple of the Chicago music scene, crafting artfully made albums that blend alternative country sounds with clever lyrics. Over 15 years ago, the Sparks left Chicago for a quieter life in New Mexico, which influenced their music by giving it a rich southwestern flavor. Brett and Rennie join Jim and Greg in the studio to talk about their latest album, Unseen, success with True Detective, and what it’s like to be married to your music partner. They also perform three songs live in studio.

Joanne Lady Gaga

Joanne

Lady Gaga needs almost no introduction at this point. A solo career that started about a decade ago on the dancefloor and the pop-charts has seen Gaga make some surprising choices in the spotlight (the meat dress) and in the studio (Cheek to Cheek, her duet album with Tony Bennett). Her latest album, called Joanne, finds her jumping across genres with a wide variety of collaborators ( Beck, Josh Homme, Mark Ronson). While the album tries to be many things, it ultimately bores Jim. He finds the album scattered and a mess using the collaborators to try to find direction instead of using them to bring out her musical best. Jim says it’s a trash it. Greg concurs. He thinks all the collaborators and genres are a continuation of her attempt to say I’m a serious artist that started with her Tony Bennett project. Instead, Greg says Joanne falls back on nostalgia mongering and results in a weak album. It is a double Trash It.

Jim

Jim’s miniature society held their annual show recently, bringing together fellow tiny soldier geeks from all over the world. Jim’s international friends often expressed bewilderment on how long we Americans drag out this grueling election process. Even the most patriotic Americans, regardless of politics, seem ready for the campaign to end. So Jim nominates a song for the Desert Island Jukebox that reflects that malaise: I’m So Bored with the USA from the 1977 debut from The Clash. It began as a Mick Jones-penned anti-love song called I’m So Bored with You, but Joe Strummer misheard the lyrics and rewrote them to be more topical. The result is another classic melodic anthem from the punk pioneers.

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