Album Reviews

The Head And The Heart – The Head And The Heart

(Heavenly) UK release date: 18 April 2011

Seattle residing The Head And The Heart have some very good tunes, in a Mumford & Sons folk style. They’re better than Mumford & Sons, though the troubadour-earnest-folk harmony parade is painfully well observed.

This competent bunch have built a strong West Coast following, and their eponymous album throws out some pointers as to why. Most notably there are lots of wonderful piano flourishes thanks to aspiring film-scorer Kenny Hensle who phases from delicate ballad to Western bar shuffle with ease. Some of the boy-girl harmonies are spot on as well; the “bah bahs” of Ghosts support a strong, upbeat stride that shines with optimism.

Similarly the guitar introduction to Winter Song has some of the most engaging guitar picking since Blackbird with an added Nick Drake summer-loneliness feel. Unfortunately in this instance the harmonies, though impressive, are a complete overkill that squash the delicate nature of the song.

So while there is much to enjoy in this album, it’s not a revelation nor a new interpretation of a well loved genre. It’s a good indie folk album, with occasional grating vocal delivery that’s, all in, too earnest. The opening of the album, with its clicked sticks and fey narrative, gives an initially worrying impression. Similarly Lost In My Mind pounds along, treading a melody that doesn’t match the joyful linked-arm strut.

Conversely, Honey Come Home uses the band’s vocal capabilities well and shows a different side, and much development potential. Vocals are inflected with the croons of The Smoking Popes rather than Deacon Blue; soulful and melodic, the results are far more considered and touching, even peppered with some nicely morbid humour.

This is an album of tracks, predominantly hindered by the rigid nature of the genre. For all the humming and picking, the songs feel too similar to each other to hold interest throughout. Sounds Like Hallelujah and its declaration of “Mumma don’t put no gun in my hand” feels clichéd and tired; for its depiction of revelation, it doesn’t sound like one. As they close the album with Heaven Go Easy On Me and the further wisdom of “Isn’t that the good life, is a simple one/ Reading good books and playing songs” it’s hard to know whether to kiss them of thump them, but it’s certainly worth having a listen to make your mind up.

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