“Let’s Be Still” – The Head and the Heart
When looking up this artist to make a purchase, similar ones popped up – The Lumineers, Of Monsters And Men, Vance Joy. My Pandora station for “Indie Folk Revival” plays all of these songs, and while they’re fine, I find they all sound virtually identical with vocal stylings à la Conor Oberst. I wasn’t expecting to love this album by the Head and the Heart (let’s call them H&H), but I really do! I chose their 2013 release “Let’s Be Still” instead of their debut album, hoping to get a more established feel of their better [perhaps more polished, or at least more established] work, and I was not disappointed.
H&H has three main singers that alternate leading on various tracks. For some groups this bothers me – makes it hard to recognize “their sound” when hearing new songs – but in this case it keeps the whole album interesting and fresh. My favorite of the three vocalists sounds almost exactly like David Gray; then there is a female singer similar to Feist; and finally there is the “other” guy who does NOT sound like David Gray but is otherwise unremarkable yet not offensive. Actually, David Gray is a good artist comparison for the whole CD – singer/songwriter style songs, with lots of piano, acoustic guitar, and heartfelt lyrics.
My favorite tracks on the album are #2 (“Another Story) and #10 (“10,000 Weight in Gold”). They are both sung by the David Gray-esque vocalist, and they both break my heart a little bit. The strong emotional response to these two may be the result of an unfair advantage, since I realized had heard these songs before (while I was working on art projects over the summer), and they definitely play on my nostalgia! Tracks 4, 5, and 6 don’t do much for me, but I don’t actually hate them: “Summertime” has some silly vocal stylings that I don’t like; “Josh McBride” seems unnecessarily somber; and “Shake” seems kind of like a contemporary Christian worship song with its too-obvious structure and cadence. Forgivable sins in the context of the whole album, really.
I don’t know why this genre of music has become so popular. I’m sure there is a legit writeup on this somewhere, but I suspect that in the world of overproduced, super-shiny pop and with the resurgence of dance music in the US, people are longing for something that feels more home-grown and timeless. I generally like the music – but since it is timed with the emergence of flannel shirts, copious beards, and LL Bean boots, I can’t shake the feeling that this is as much of a fashion trend in music as it is in apparel.
The observations above are the reasons why I am so skeptical of any artist that falls into this “Indie Folk Revival” category – it seems easy to take advantage of, so why not? Plenty of people can play the banjo while lamenting something personal in a gravely voice. H&H seems like one of the best quality examples I have come across in this category, so if you are going to try some of this stripped-down music, I suggest that you pick up this album. I give this an A- rating because there really isn’t a bad track on the CD!
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Link to Amazon for Purchase Info: