Cute Couples: Ratboys & The Handsome Family

Posted on: October 24, 2023
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the window ratboys

By Riley Hamilton

Cute Couples is a weekly column bringing you album pairings – one old, one new – that go together like wine and cheese.

The Window – Ratboys

On The WindowRatboys traverse sweeping genres — from the country-leaning romp “No Way” to gentle, twinkling indie-rock-sweetheart single “The Window” to jam-oriented “Black Earth, WI,” Ratboys brilliantly present their Midwestern rock origins with a chiseled Americana bite. Each song sounds self-assured, as if written and recorded with a confident smirk. The album plays like a solid landing — the band has never been better than they are right now, and they know it. The Chicago rockers have been around for nearly a decade, but now they’ve become an example for modern and future bands across all genres. Don’t miss them at Empire Control Room on November 3rd. 

In the Air – The Handsome Family 

As a quietly mythologized band, some might not be aware of the deep roots The Handsome Family has in modern popular music. Andrew Bird released a full-length album of songs originally recorded by The Handsome Family in 2014 with Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…; in 2022, beloved indie rockstar Phoebe Bridgers covered The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine” as her annual Christmas-themed single; “Far From Any Road” from 2003’s Singing Bones was the theme song for the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Whether aware of it or not, The Handsome Family’s impact has been far and wide since its inception in 1993. The wife-husband duo is made up of Rennie Sparks, a writer-musician who acts as the band’s primary lyricist, and Brett Sparks, a musician-writer who acts as the band’s primary composer. Their 2000 album In the Air features their signature funny-tragic lyrics over gothic country instrumentation, and, 14 years before he reimagined and recorded some of these very songs on his own, Andrew Bird also provides violin accompaniment on multiple tracks. It is a wonderful starting point to get to know The Handsome Family. And it’s an album you will likely hear the ways the band has inspired some, or many, of your favorite artists.