In today’s music scene, it seems as though everything is split into sections: Brooklyn, West Coast, Pacific Northwest, just to name a few. And even though these labels at first seem intriguing, they do raise the question of what it means to be clumped with everything else that is coming out of a certain region, which may be the largest problem with the debut album by Seattle natives The Head and The Heart. Even with their rags to riches story as a glorious backdrop, the eponymous debut falls flat, as it reeks of nearly every trick in the folk book.
The album’s opener, “Cats and Dogs”, leads listeners along the same sing-song folk road they’ve strolled down many times before, opening a record of nine risk-free tracks that each utilize the same formula. They shake things up here and there, particularly on “Ghosts”, where they meddle with the sound by riffing on a piano rather than a guitar. However, for the most part, The Head and The Heart sounds like an album stripped from 2008, never once providing any sense of surprise or adding anything new to the folk genre. To make matters worse, most of the lyrics that pour out of the record sound half baked for a Grey’s Anatomy episode; they’re often too emotive or disarming, particularly the opening lines of “Down In The Valley”: “I wish I was a slave to an age-old trade/Like ridin’ around on railcars and workin’ long days.” No, the epic crescendo never comes. Yes, the album ends just as harmlessly as it began.
Although hopes were high and so much work went into the creation of the record, The Head and The Heart have ultimately created a debut that will most likely be forgotten by summer. Even as singers Jon Russell and Josiah Johnson’s voices flow together swimmingly over Charity Thielen’s violin, the album never truly succeeds at living up to its name. What does that say for the band’s name?