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The Evolution of The Head and the Heart

Caelin Miltko | Wednesday, October 9, 2013

If you’re like me and are super-bummed about Mumford and Sons’ “indefinite break,” have no fear because The Head and the Heart is here to fill the M&S-sized hole in your heart. With their new album set to come out Oct. 15, the so-called “Recession rock” band is poised to expand upon the indie folk tones of their first album.
The Head and the Heart first hit the music scene in 2009 after meeting each other at various open mic nights around their native Seattle. The six band members created an album and self-released it before being signed by Sub Pop in 2010.
The band’s acoustic folk sound will appeal to fans of Mumford and Sons while The Head and the Heart’s contemplative reflection on the world will ring true to countless other listeners. If their self-titled first album seemed too idealistic in its view of the world, “Let’s Be Still” represents a step back from that view. Still hopeful for the state of the future, the music now lends more credence to the necessary setbacks of life.
“There are sacrifices, you know? We’re doing what we love, but we’re still gone all the time. You know, like having a girlfriend, you have to balance your relationship. Something is lost and sacrificed for you to be able to do what you’re doing,” vocalist Josiah Johnson said in an interview with Mother Jones’ Maggie Caldwell.
The first single off the album, “Another Story,” represents this shift. According to Matthew Perpetua at BuzzFeed, the song was vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Russell’s reflection on the Newtown shootings. “Another Story” laments a situation where no comfort is possible, crooning, “Can we go on as like it once was?”
It seems the album presents a sort of wistfulness for the optimism of their first album. Where “Coeur d’Alene” from the first album gives the heart-warming sentiment of “My mind’s made up/I’m doing this with you,” the second album’s “Summertime” comes back with “I am wholly devoted to the woman I adore/But in the summertime she’ll be gone.”
If the first represents a refusal to lose those you love, the second shows that sometimes it is inevitable. The state of balancing the optimism necessary to chase their dreams and the realism to deal with the necessary sacrifices defines the evolution of the band in the four years since their last album.
The band has three main vocalists, Johnson, Russell and Charity Rose Thielen. Johnson and Russell both add guitar and percussion while Thielen plays the violin. They are joined by Chris Zasche on bass, Kenny Hensley on piano and Tyler Williams on drums. The trio of vocalists allow for three-part harmonies while the range of musicians creates a diverse backdrop similar to The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons.
“Let’s Be Still” has 13 tracks, two of which have been released. While “Another Story” may represent possible thematic shifts, “Shake” highlights new musical techniques from the traditionally folk band. The tempo is a bit faster than any songs in the previous album and adds more of a dance beat to the mix. This new sound adds variety to a group that already had a solid musical foundation.
The new album promises many new, exciting changes to the core sound of The Head and the Heart that made its debut so great. So if you’re longing for some new music in the vein of Mumford and Sons, I suggest trying The Head and the Heart. Their new album should bring them back into the spotlight that has wandered since their first release.
Contact Caelin Miltko at
cmoriari@nd.edu