written by Chris Familton
Folk and country flecked indie music seems to be really carving out a niche market for listeners wary of venturing deep into those traditional genres and who need to be eased in by more contemporary sounds. A band like The Head and the Heart are the perfect type of group to do just that. On their debut album they roll out effortless comfortable vocal melodies and harmonies through acoustic guitars, piano and violin tinged songs that immediately sound familiar.
The band has pop music at its core and they use various genre signifiers (folk, country, soul) to bend the mood of their songs. They can shift from a Ron Sexsmith styled song like Coeur D’Alene to upbeat country pop sounds similar to The Avett Brothers without sounding like they are trying to merely cover all bases. The most effective songs are those that follow a less is more approach. Down In The Valley is a slow building tale of descent into the bottle while Rivers And Roads allow the band’s vocal harmonies to really shine through while singing great lines like ‘I miss your face like hell’. When violinist Charity Rose Thielen steps up to sing a verse on Winter Song you instantly wish she had been given more songs to sing, such is the lovely, quirky grain of her voice.
Where The Head and the Heart lose points is the slickness of their sound. It all feels too perfect and ‘nice’ – even when they are singing about ghosts, failed relationships and addiction. They do convey those themes with the relevant sorrow and emotion but they need to be framed by music that adds to rather than distracts from the weight of the words they are singing.
In the realm of contemporary americana The Head and the Heart are at the lighter/pop-rich end of the spectrum and in that context they have delivered a solid and confident debut album.
this review first appeared in Drum Media