The Head and the Heart – Self-titled Debut & Sub Pop Re-Release
The Head and the Heart are the masters of the self-release album. They’re one of the year’s biggest success stories, selling 10,000 copies of their self-released debut album and touring tirelessly supporting acts like Vampire Weekend, Dave Matthews and Dr. Dog, resulting in a Sub Pop deal and the re-release of their debut album.
The Head and the Heart have a knack for layering folk instrumentation with a pop sensibility to create toe-tapping, sing-a-long anthems. Although semi-melancholic, the sextet always manages to warm your heart rather than dampen your mood. Nothing exemplifies this more than “Down in the Valley” which begins at a whisper with an unobtrusive guitar melody building to a gentle yet energetic climax with strings, percussion and harmonies, then ending just as quietly as it began. “Lost in My Mind” has a similar effect. With harmonies pitch-perfect, the band builds in strength with persistent piano chords and rattling tambourine creating an incredible and impeccably fashioned folk-pop song.
“Cats and Dogs” is a brief and terribly catchy track that acknowledges their lack of identity in the line, “My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are.” However, it moves seamlessly into the second song, “Coeur d’Alene,” an awkward, piano-driven foot-stomper while “Ghost” is a bit cheesy and my least favorite on the album. Then, the band completely makes up for their heavy-handed opening trio with the enchanting ballad “Rivers and Roads.” A song that is many things – soft, sweeping, moving, and pensive – but, only one word can describe it, extraordinary. And, the flawless and seamless tempo-changes on “Sounds Like Hallelujah” is phenomenal.
The Head and the Heart’s ability to produce an album with this kind of chemistry and emotion is very surprising given the fact that they met two years ago at a random open-mic night in Seattle. But, it’s also this relatively new musical relationship that shows in the album’s intermittent moments of awkwardness and folk-pop familiarity. And, despite the negative criticisms The Head and the Heart has received, I think it’s an admirable collection of songs made even more admirable knowing that just last year this band was unsigned and their record self-released.
I love The Head and the Heart. I love them for their bursts of brillance and their tenacity. And, on the group’s debut album, they show that they have the potential to become something special.
— April Wolfe @ Common Folk Music