Let me begin by expressing my deepest respect for a band that made it to some renown by sheer determination, through tireless touring and promotion. And I’ll also add my pleasant surprise to find one of the rare groups that shares lead vocals among all of its members (three in this group), rather than having their career tethered to the whims of a sole person. Nonetheless, I don’t know what it is about this group that causes both intense acrimony and hyperbolic adulation among reviewers. I, meanwhile, fall on the seldom-walked middle ground with regard to this group. I don’t find them particularly special in a broad sense, but they are far from being the worst thing I’ve ever heard, or even currently hear coming out my local alternative radio station. This group commits a sin no worse than sometimes being uninteresting, and achieves no feat other than sometimes being catchy.
On this album, I hear a vague group. One song is vaguely progressive: “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” with its suite-like structure. One song is vaguely tin-pan alley: the tongue-in-cheek “Ghosts.” And one song is even vaguely Celtic: “Rivers and Roads.” They seem to broadly take in influences, which is great to hear, but then mix them in a set of tracks that fall flat in terms of performance. There are country structures, and folk philosophizing, but not a lot of passion behind either.
The Head and the Heart clearly put their share of effort into the songs, in arrangement, lyrics and instrumentation. Thought and heart went into the undertaking of this album. And yet, paradoxically, it almost sounds like the band is phoning it in. This could very well be a result of poor aesthetic choices, but even on the song that’s the most fun (the aforementioned “Ghosts”) there is a blatant lack of bounce on perhaps the most up-tempo song on the platter. All in all, this is an average effort from what otherwise seems to be a more than capable group.
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes