Through the Trees was the Handsome Family's breakthrough album, garnering enough attention and sales that they were finally able to quit their day jobs and focus on music full-time. The group subsequently toured the U.S. and Europe, while critics on both sides of the Atlantic went nuts for the Sparks' clever, brooding songs. With Through the Trees, the transitional phase heard on Milk and Scissors was complete and the duo emerged with a more defined style, delivery, and songcraft which became their trademark sound. Brett sings with a deeper resonance and phrases Rennie's mini-stories more skillfully, while the occasional distorted guitar and harder-rocking tunes have been trimmed away, leaving a more consistent, stripped-down country feel. This album includes Rennie's vocal debut (albeit in a self-conscious, exaggerated nasal twang) on "Down in the Ground"; "Cathedrals," a song originally heard on their limited-edition vinyl EP Invisible Hands (Carrot Top, 1997); and enduring crowd favorites "The Woman Downstairs" and "Weightless Again." It also includes guest Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. While the albums that followed were excellent, Through the Trees remains the Handsome Family's definitive album, and is a wonderful encapsulation of the myths and heartbroken tales that populate the dark, romantic world of Brett and Rennie Sparks.
AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne