The meteoric rise of Seattle’s folk pop band The Head And The Heart is truly something legends are made of. The band went from forming at an open mic night in a local bar to garnering praise from NPR and pretty much everyone who has heard of them. Locally in Seattle, the power of the band’s live show has spread to all corners of the city, and The Head And The Heart quickly sell out any and all venues. They were the support for Dr. Dog recently. And to top it all off, local indie super heavyweights Sub Pop took notice and signed the band.
So here it is, the Sub Pop re-release of the band’s debut self-titled album. Tales of bygones being bygones abound. Soft melodies, foot percussion stomps, beautiful harmonies, majestic pianos: it is all here. But, unlike most people in the fair city of Seattle, I’m not about ready to hand the musical key to the city over to The Head And The Heart quite yet. It is true, this is the city’s next big musical export, and there is good reason; “Down In The Valley” is a beautifully crafted pop song, “Cats And Dogs” will have you slamming your head against a wall just to get it out three months after you first listen to it, and “Lost In My Mind” showcases the frighteningly good vocal harmonies the band is capable of.
Listen to “Lost In My Mind” – DOWNLOAD MP3
But at the beginning of all this, I called The Head And The Heart a folk pop band. And I apologize for that. It was unnecessary genre tagging, a habit which I am more often than not guilty of. The Head And The Heart is a pop album — nothing more. Sure, there is soft violin throughout, some great acoustic guitar strumming and melodies galore, but the songs have a predictable ring to them as the album goes on. In the end, this pop sensibility, which makes the band so easy to listen to, also makes the album just kind of mush into one big extended track; in the end, no song really stands out.
To give the band credit, though, The Head And The Heart craft some very nice pop songs. So maybe to truly appreciate the band, you have to deny all the press you read about them, like the last.fm description that describes the band as “like The Avett Brothers with a little extra oomph.” Don’t be fooled by such folk or bluegrass comparisons. Because what makes The Head And The Heart so listenable — their unabashed love for pop structure, pop breakdowns, pop climaxes, pop everything — is exactly what holds the band back. The album takes no risks. But there is a promising sign for The Head And The Heart; it is their debut album, after all, and many worse debut albums have graced the musical world. But for all the hype, I want more of a challenge, because as it stands now, The Head And The Heart have created the most perfect dinner party background album on the planet.