Off the Beat and Path: The Head and the Heart

By Rob O’Donnell


Attempting to describe the sound of The Head and the Heart’s self-titled debut album is complicated, so bear with me on this one. In fact, put this paper down and just buy the album. No matter what genre you usually identify with, it will make your night. 

Songs like “Down in the Valley” and “Winter Song” make me want to brand it as folk rock. They have beautiful acoustic guitar and violin as the driving instruments throughout, both of which call up the melancholy and nostalgic tone usually associated with folk or acoustic music. The lyrics on the entire album are incredibly intimate, and like good folk music they deal with honest topics like adventure, loss, heartbreak and whiskey. With all that said, the first time that I heard them was at the Newport Folk Festival, so I might be a little biased in my opinion. But as a testament to their skill, I heard them perform three songs and bought the album on the spot. So, as I said before, drop the paper and go listen.

For those people still reading, I’m going to change my mind and call it indie rock. I’m hesitant to do that, since the genre indie rock is the label that an album receives when it literally doesn’t fit into any other category. Which is why it is perfect in this case. Sorry. It is just way too upbeat and pop-sounding to be called folk music. I don’t mean pop-sounding in a bad way: in fact I actually mean it as a compliment. These are songs that I can actually play when I’m hanging out with my friends and not get grief for (because apparently Bob Dylan is not “party music”). Songs like “Lost in My Mind” and “Ghosts” can even be danced to, which is a sin for folk. You have to be a fairly confident dancer, but it can be done.

But overall, the album is fantastic. The songs all flow into each other and make the album really cohesive, not just a random assortment of songs in no particular order like a lot of artists. It’s a very eccentric sound, so the cohesiveness is crucial. They are one of the few bands that can turn listening to an album into a true experience. Taking a walk around town with The Head and the Heart on my iPod is one of my favorite things to do, and I suggest you do the same. Or if you’re too lazy, we’ll be playing the album this week on Those Damn Jackelopes from midnight to 2 a.m. on Thursday nights.

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