For the record: The Head and the Heart reminds listeners to ‘Be Still’

Music columnist Meghan LeVota on the band’s sophomore album

By Meghan LeVota | Nov. 6, 2013

Tags: Music


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The head, the heart: the two most personified human organs. They’re responsible for both love and loss, and Seattle-based indie folk band The Head And The Heart exemplifies them beautifully.

The band formed in 2009 when frontman Josiah Johnson connected with fellow musicians Jonathan Russell, Charity Rose Thielen, Chris Zasche, Kenny Hensley and Tyler Williams through a series of open mic nights in a popular Seattle pub. The name of the band became clear, as Johnson said in an interview with Mother Jones, it was chosen because “though your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this (music as a career) is what you’re supposed to do even if it’s crazy.”

After gaining a following through word of mouth, the band was signed by Seattle label Sub Pop Records, also known as the label that first signed Nirvana.

In 2011, The Head and the Heart went on tour, opening for the likes of Vampire Weekend, Dr. Dog, Iron & Wine and more with their debut album. Surrounded by new influences, the band began working on their sophomore work while on the tour bus. Long days and a whirlwind of performances all over the world can be a lot to handle — inspiring The Head and the Heart to “be still” with their new album, Let’s Be Still.

The Head and the Heart takes on mature themes with the song “Another Story,” which was written shortly after the Newtown massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. The song is written by Russell, who attempts to make peace through the power of music.

He makes a mockery of the human race for letting this tragedy happen, comparing us to “hungry wolves howling in the night,” and yet emphasizes that, “The sun still rises, even with the pain… the sun still rises, even through the rain.” I commend the band for being able to create something beautiful in the face of this hideous tragedy.

“Springtime” is beautiful and exposed and serves as a perfect precursor to “Summertime.” The blossoming musical line expresses the aura of springtime before flowing effortlessly into summer. The hopeful summer spirit shines through with catchy chord progressions and flowery lyrical imagery.

The recurring theme of the album is most evident through its defining track, “Let’s Be Still.” Slow moving beats encourage listeners to take a step back, and enjoy each moment in life.

The album cover describes the energy of the song perfectly, showing two band members lying in the country grass, gazing at the sky. The theme of the pending sunrise repeats in the title track with, “We can play music for hours and hours / But the sun will still be coming up soon.” It is easy to feel caught up as a college student in the 21st century. The Head and the Heart reminds us to slow down and enjoy life moment by moment.

The single, “Shake,” lives up to its name, as it is one of the most fast-paced tracks on the album. The underlying shaky guitar riff complements folky harmonies that sing, “But the wind, yes, the wind keeps / Pushing you to me.”

One of my favorites on the album, “My Friends,” expresses a loss of faith when it comes to love, god and politics with the thought-provoking line, “If everyone had rights, would anything go wrong?” Smart, introspective lyrics are definitely a strong suit, though I can’t help but love their acoustic charm.

Let’s Be Still proves that The Head and the Heart has got what it takes to make a name for itself, proving to be more than just a one-trick pony. However, after “My Friends,” the second half of the album kind of slows down for me.

But maybe that is exactly their point. Maybe not everything has to be so fast-paced and ever-changing. Maybe it’s more important to focus on the beautiful consistency of a sunrise.

Though on the surface The Head and the Heart may seem monotonous, each song on Let’s Be Still manages to add something beautiful.

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