The Head and the Heart's "Signs of Light"
By Conner Jensen
The 6-piece indie folk band The Head and the Heart has been a prominent face of the increasingly popular genre of alternative music since 2009. The band’s beginnings are rooted in a series of highly successful open-mic sessions in Seattle, Washington. Shortly after seeing the positive reception of their music, the band began to solidify themselves as the band we know today. The band released their self-titled album in 2010, which was originally self-produced and recorded, but was soon remastered by the record label Sub Pop. Shortly after their debut, the group went on tour as an opening act for big name bands, such as Vampire Weekend and Death Cab for Cutie, as well as having their own headlining show. In 2013 the group released Let’s Be Still, their sophomore album. This was the first time they had produced as a full band, allowing for the artistic influences of every member to be blended into the piece. This album landed them a #10 spot on the Billboard 200, and left their fans starving for more.
The band released Signs of Light, their tertiary album, on September 9th and thus far they fans are abuzz. The album begins with the single that preceded the album release, “All We Ever Knew.” This song starts abruptly yet softly, with almost no instrumental accompaniment except for the faint strum of a guitar. After a verse or so the ensemble joins in, blending together to create a folk-style melody with a heavy pop influence. It’s almost immediately obvious why this was chosen as the single they released, as it style is likely to appeal to a large audience, including those who would seldom listen to a folk band. The song also includes an instrumental showcase, where the tempo of the song fluctuates before returning to the reprise of the somber yet cheery chorus. The song fades out with a series of “La la la” before continuing into “City of Angels.” This song starts with and maintains a high tempo. The vocals are upbeat and the overall mood of the song is disconnected and reflective. Near the end of the song the tempo slows then quickly picks back up with a reprise of the chorus, drawing the reader back in to the end.
Without skipping a beat, “Rhythm and Blues” begins. This song shows no hesitation to move forward with the album, as the melody immediately begins as the previous song ends. While this was quicker to the punch, the tempo is significantly slower and the tone has become much more somber than the previous song. From the beginning it is obvious that this somber tone is going to be maintained throughout the piece, which is often a common tone with indie folk music. This song is somber but still keeps the listener interested as the tempo picks up slowly and the group incorporates tasteful solos, including a notable electric guitar solo. The vicious shaking of a tambourine closes out this song and as the final note of the guitar fades, the drums begin to kick a mellow beat to start “False Alarm.” The strings follow shortly after in a fluttery and warm melody. This song has a mild tempo as it enters the chorus, and it picks up slightly during chorus, then quickly returning to the original tempo. This song showcases the musical talent of the group as well as showcasing the vocal range of the lead singer. As the song closes out, the singer becomes distorted, which is off-putting and hard to really understand, so it just muddles the entirety of the sound near the end portion of the song before fading into “Dreamer.”
“Dreamer” starts slow, with a blues-inspired sound. The drum line is slow and is only accompanied by a slow and somber bassline. The vocals show the theme of disconnect that previous songs has also exhibited, but this song has a more somber tone than the ones that have shared the theme thus far. The vocals are also accompanied by a female voice as well, adding a nice variation in the melody. As the song ends, we can hear the two harmonizing before the music slows to a brief halt. “Liberty Magic” begins with the quick and low strumming of a guitar, and the vocals of both the male and female singer harmonizing together, maintaining the somber sound from the previous song. However, when the drums come into the melody, the tone changes slightly, contrasting the initial tone and showing optimism despite their troubles which is reinforced by the verse and chorus. The song fades abruptly following the end of several reprises of the chorus.
“Turn It Around” begins almost as quickly as the previous song ended, with a pop sound with an underlying folk influence. The drums and strings come together in a melody that’s jumpy and vibrant. Like most of the songs so far, the tempo picks up near the chorus and slows down during the verses, which keeps the listener relatively engaged but the repetition makes the songs hard to listen to back to back because of how ultimately predictable the structure of each song will be. “Colors” fades in with a jingly bell sound then the chorus and the band quickly jump in. The tempo is slow and the mood is somber and reminiscent, and the female accompaniment is not as present as it was previously, showing the fading away of a loved one that’s referred to within the lyrics. Halfway through, the female singer gets a solo before the male singer joins back in for a full unison of the voices, showing an ironic mutual feeling that occurs between both lovers during a separation. The song fades out with an ominous synthesizer sound, then shortly after “Take A Walk” starts in.
The sound is slightly higher in tempo, but still remains slow during the beginning portion of the song. Once again the female voice is intermixed in the singing to show the separation that the lyrics are referring to, yet this song shows a hint of compromise and hope, contrasting the ideas of the previous song. The tempo flows the same pattern as it previously had, with the drums picking up and the rest of the instruments following along, only this time the tempo doesn’t slow dramatically like the previous songs have been, so that minor change is a nice change for the listener. The instruments cut out and the singer is still left mumbling something that is once again hard to hear before a calm and mildly ominous strumming opens up “Oh My Dear.” This song is the slowest song thus far on the album, which provides a major contrast to the previous pieces. Along with being the slowest song thus far, it’s also the first piece to heavily stress the vocal talent of the lead singer, with the only instrumental accompaniment being faint and docile. This song ends abruptly, almost serving as an intro into “I Don’t Mind.”
"I Don’t Mind" begins with a mild mannered strumming and lighthearted drumming, which contrasts highly to the previous song. Additionally, the somber tone has dissipated slightly, but it is still present as an undertone. Much like the intro, this song showcases the vocal range of the lead singer, with a chorus sung in falsetto. This song provides a nice change of pace for the listener, seeing as the first songs are mild mannered and more emotion fueled, but this song adapts a more carefree and refreshing sound. The falsetto singing become s a little less frequent throughout the song which is disappointing due to the fact that when it became less frequent it sounded far too similar to the rest of the album. The female accompaniment is now completely gone showing a complete separation of the two individuals, which is likely the reason the song is titled the way it is. “Your Mother’s Eyes” begins with an ominous and angelic sound, like that of a muffled recording of a church choir, which is maintained for a little while before the fast paced strumming of the strings joins into the melody. These two sounds create a very contrasting sound throughout the song. This song has a slightly change in sound but still maintains that initial ominous tone, which could represent an end since it is the penultimate song in the album.
The final song shares the same name as the album, and it starts with the slow playing of a piano, and shortly after a somber and slow singing male joins in. The singing is the once again very slow, but it has a more husky sound than it has for the rest of the album, which is a nice change to close out the album. The singing fades out halfway through the song then the piano picks up and the rest of the instruments join in a mild melody. This is by far the most enjoyable song to listen to in my personal opinion because it’s unique compared to the rest of the album.
Ultimately, this album had some enjoyable parts but many times it was far too repetitive to want to continually listen to. This isn’t an album I would leave on repeat but it’s definitely worth the listen, primarily because of the underlying symbolism that keeps your interest if you’re listening to it thoroughly, but to most people they are likely to lose interest quickly throughout the album and miss the best part of the album, the final song. The only thing I have to say is give it a shot, it’s worth at least one listen.