The Head and The Heart Show Signs of Light With Their New Album

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The Head and the Heart, Signs of Light

The Head and the Heart, an indie folk band from the Seattle area, has been unfairly grouped with the singalong bands The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men. While all leaped into the opening created by Mumford & Sons, what differentiates the band from their banjo-blending peers are excellent songs. The group is composed of songwriters Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson along with pianist Kenny Hensley, bassist Chris Zasche, violinist (and sometimes fan favorite vocalist) Charity Rose Thielen, and drummer Tyler Williams. Their debut was self-released in 2010 and later picked up by Sub Pop. The album was a breath of fresh air, with 11 terrific songs that didn’t rely on the banjo inflection (or bro-fans). While not breaking any new ground, their 2nd album, Let’s Be Still, released 2 years later in 2012, continued their journey to open hearts and ears with acoustic guitars, pianos and heartfelt songs.

I’ve seen a pattern with the aforementioned bands – to open with their best album and then seek firm footing by attempting to expand their sound and audience. I’d opine that it hasn’t worked on any of their follow-ups, so I didn’t hold a strong hope that the new album from The Head and the Heart would show growth or even a strong collection of songs.

It is my great pleasure to be pleasantly surprised. The new album, Signs of Light, is gorgeous. Their first with a major label (Warner Brothers) after two with indie superpower, Sub Pop. Full of acoustic guitars, piano, and even some forays into electric guitar and sampling, the album shines with hooks and tenderness. The opener “All We Ever Knew” is classic The Head and the Heart. Mixing great sounds of piano and acoustic guitars and double-tracked vocals of the whole band on the chorus, one can’t help but sing along (or at least head nod). Passion also flows through the band, including the title track. Ethereal vocals accompanied by piano work as the background to this piece of questioning a long-term relationship and whether or not the love interest is still feeling it. The real centerpiece though is “Rhythm & Blues,” a song so catchy I can feel myself singing it in my head for weeks.

They’re not breaking any new ground stylistically or musically, but this set continues to show that The Head and the Heart know how to write great songs -- songs worthy of all of the praise and love of their most ardent supporters.

At The Pageant in St. Louis on Monday, October 3.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0