Critical Voices: The Head and the Heart, Let’s Be Still

October 24, 2013

Beautiful. The only word that surfaced in my mind as tears welled up in my eyes at the close of The Head and the Heart’s self-titled debut album, which I left spinning in my car’s stereo for many months of my senior year of high school.

Painstakingly passionate and full of life, the sextet shook the indie world with their debut album in 2011. Their unique blend of folk rock thrived in a saturated environment of Mumford and Sons wannabes. Unfortunately, their newest effort fails to meet those same standards.

It’s not that the band’s second LP, Let’s Be Still, is bad. In fact, the album is fairly good, standing out among the exhausting sea of folk rock revivalists. Songs like “Josh McBride” exemplify graceful and magnificent composition and highlights the band’s strengths. The guitar riff that begins the piece transports the listener to a perfectly calm and peaceful mind, before we are met by the capable and experienced voice of Josiah Johnson.

Johnson is joined by sparse piano accompaniment and the simple, straightforward harmonies that the band has perfected over their short existence. As a tale of love unfolds over the five-minute track, the entire band is slowly integrated into the musical mix, prudently adding ornamentation that creates a percussive, yet melodic background.

“You are in the seat beside me” Johnson croons, “you are in my dreams at night.” This symphony of raw emotion follows the album through its entire run.

There are points, though, where the configuration of melodies ends up being a little lackluster. This is especially the case when the band attempts something new. The musical pair of “Springtime” and “Summertime,” mark a musical departure for the group. These connected pieces involve the use of a synthesizer to create broad, flowing chords to accompany the unique voice of Charity Thielen, the violinist, and secondary vocalist. Both songs are stylistically inconsistent with the rest of the album and, as a result, feel poorly executed.

The Head and the Heart’s strengths lie in their ability to weave stories through beautiful lyrics, simple instrumentation, and radiant harmonies. The majority of Let’s Be Still follows this notion and contains magnificent and striking refrain. The only question that remains is whether or not I’ll ever get some of these choruses out of my head.

Voice’s Choices: “Settle,” “Josh McBride”

Daniel Varghese
Daniel was an editor at the Voice from December 2013 to November 2016. He loved it. Follow him on Twitter @drvarg01 for his thoughts on Global Health and Kanye West.


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