The Head and the Heart

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Editorial Review

THE HEAD AND THE HEART
Album review: "The Head and the Heart"

As if its name didn't spell it out, Seattle's the Head and the Heart plays indie folk that is equal parts cerebral and sensitive. The band's self-titled debut features a generally subdued, mom-friendly collection of pensive Americana.

Consistently upbeat and occasionally dramatic, the group proves its chops but takes few risks on its first outing. The album offers a satisfying and easy listen, but its lack of edge keeps it from going beyond just being "nice."

The album hits its high point halfway through, with the effortlessly grand "Down in the Valley." After a slow build, the band coalesces into a majestic chorus driven by piano and singer Jonathan Russell's gentle rasp.

There are other highlights: the lullaby "Winter Song," with charmingly childlike vocals from singer and violinist Charity Rose Thielen, and the rousing "Sounds Like Hallelujah," which features a quietly thrilling tempo change that helps it finish with a bang.

Other songs are less exciting, though, such as the plodding "Rivers and Roads" and the staid "Honey Come Home." These tracks suggest that the Head and the Heart may sometimes be too subtle for its own good. Thielen's melodic violin is usually low in the mix, vocal harmonies are far from showy and, in general, there are no risky choices that would make the album more exciting. The band's overly analytical head may be stifling the passion of its heart.

--Dan Miller, Sept. 23, 2011