Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals are on Fire!

Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals are on Fire!


When bands come together to make a split record on the commercial level, whether it’s a full-length LP or just an extended play, the results can be unpredictable and often fall short if the artists don’t share a fan base. But for independent musicians, splits are seen as the most accessible way for bands to expand their audience by using the two for one marketing strategy. Soft Landing Records was wise to pair up Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals with Darlin Darlin on their new eponymous split EP, which beats the odds and yields awesome results that fans of either group will love.

It probably helps that the two bands share a brilliant percussionist in Evan Mitchell and multi-instrumentalist in the dexterous Brett Parnell, who provide an exceptional backbone to all four tracks on this extended play. Darlin Darlin is the primary vehicle for Parnell’s wife, singer/songwriter Joanie Leon Guerrero, and her rich brand of bucolic melody. In the song “Katy,” she speaks to all our souls when she demands just a minute to think things through, to stop and breathe for just a moment, to consider where life is going and just how it got this way. Her sincerity and brutal honesty is as refreshing as it is heartbreaking to listen to, as all of the emotion seems to come crashing down onto us at once. “Easy,” also from Darlin Darlin on the split, puts Leon Guerrero’s voice in center stage for us to really appreciate. While “Easy” is very much fit for the Grand Ol’ Opry in its rural sway and vintage subject matter, it also feels very much like it could conquer the adult contemporary charts much like Emmylou Harris did in the late 1980’s.

Not to be outdone, fellow New Yorker Stephen Karl also brings his poetic A-game to the table, but putting a slightly more post-punk spin on things. In the first moments of the song “Cindy,” (written for Cindi Lauper), the electric guitar recalls certain cowpunks like The Gun Club and The Cramps, an unexpected treat that plays exceptionally well alongside the timber of Karl’s voice. There’s a bit of Dylan’s abstract observation and an appreciation for irony, but it’s all in good fun and doesn’t sound derivative. Strutting into their other song, “Shelter,” you really begin to pick up on how much Karl & Handsome Animals appreciate melody in their music. There’s plenty of common ground to stand on with Darlin Darlin in that respect, as both of these groups have a sensational work ethic that seems to bleed into the finished product with pride and maturity.

My instincts tell me that this split, which is out on May 4, is going to pick up a lot of momentum when it hits specialty/college radio rotation. There’s just so many things to fall in love with in Karl’s Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin that I can see a joint tour being a big success if they decide to embark on one. For more info, check out both Stephen Karl & the Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin on Facebook now.

Michael Rand

About Author /

Start typing and press Enter to search