The long-awaited sophomore release from Seattle based indie/rock/folk group The Head and the Heart refuses to fall flat, and in fact does quite the opposite. On Let’s Be Still, the group unites in a way that perhaps wasn’t possible during the creation of their self-titled debut in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Members of the band met and began to form one by one around open mic nights at Seattle’s Conor Byrne Pub. The band later began selling their first recordings in the form of self-released CD’s at shows and in local record stores. Soon record labels were scrambling to lay claim on the up-and-coming talent evident in The Head and the Heart, and the band signed with Sub Pop in November of 2010. After an official 2011 Sub Pop release of their debut material and extensive touring in support of the album, the band began to grow into the focused collective it is clear now they have become, one which created Let’s Be Still.
Opening track, “Homecoming Heroes” invites us on a journey of legendary proportions with a delicate balance of strings, upbeat piano, and somber melodies. “Another Story” is a magnificent showcase of Jonathan Russell’s impressive vocal ability, though when in harmony with Charity Thielen and Josiah Johnson it is clear the three are a choral powerhouse. “Shake” sets our toes tapping and our hands clapping immediately with bright, lively piano and Tyler William’s skillfully coordinated drum accompaniment.
Bluesy track “Cruel” capitalizes on the raw, emotive songwriting talent apparent in the group. Kenny Hensley lays a beautiful piano foundation for a true chill-inducing epic. Russell, Johnson, and Thielen join in flawless harmony on the chorus, “I tried being cruel, it’s just not in me/It’s just not in you.” Title track, “Let’s Be Still” gracefully asks us to slow things down and appreciate them more fully and to remember time as the constant it is, “The world’s not forgiving of everyone’s fears/The days turn into months, the months turn into years…”.
The Head and the Heart have a well-developed talent for writing engaging ballads, a talent that is unmistakable on Let’s Be Still. “These Days Are Numbered” is a beautiful slice of Americana, and Thielen’s voice pared away from the rest of the group proves to be as rich and as beautiful on it’s own as when it’s soaring through harmonies. Maintaining it’s folk-blues focus, the track ends with a minute of sorrowful, exposed harmonica, further demonstrating the band’s ability to create a diverse soundscape.
We can only hope to lay witness to future releases from The Head and the Heart, as they have conceived something beautiful with Let’s Be Still. Something with broad appeal and wonderful depth. Something with charm and gorgeous presentation. Something that causes us to stop for a moment: to be still.
Reviewed by James McGill