Life is riddled with a smorgasbord of emotional highs, lows, tragedies, triumphs, and what might feel like monotony to fill in the gaps.
On the newest album from Seattle folk and Americana band The Head and the Heart, Let's Be Still, you can feel the wear and tear of a group who have simply experienced a lot and probably had little time to rest and reflect.
“When I think about the two records together, the first one feels like we all wanted to fulfill this dream we’d had about playing music, meeting people and traveling around,” drummer Tyler Williams told Sub Pop. “This one feels like the consequences of doing that — what relationships did you ruin? What other things did you miss? You always think it will all be perfect once you just do ‘this.’ And that’s not always the case.”
That sense of loss is perhaps most prevalent on one of the record’s best songs, “10,000 Weight in Gold,” where vocalist and guitarist Jonathan Russell belts, “I was burnt out and lost,” before eventually building up into “10,000 weight in gold never feels like treasure until you lose it all.” The haunting finger-picking guitar perhaps better explains the sense of hardship, however, and pairs nicely with a melody sprinkled with falsetto and well-placed harmonies and accented by occasional almost Harrison-esque reversed guitar licks.
Adds group member Jonathan Russell, “Has there been an impact on our lives since we have become full-time musicians? Sure. No band wants to write that second record about how hard they have it. But it’s hard to get around all of it. There are a few songs on this record that express the band’s hardships for sure. On one hand, it’s everything you have ever wanted. On the other hand, you start to miss the things you’ve lost and had to give up. And that’s just life. My job is to write about it.”
Touring and success can take their toll on the human body and spirit, and so too can the deeply depressing and disturbing events we’ve experienced over the last year in solidarity with those who lost family and friends in shootings like the ones in Newtown and Colorado. Their first single, “Another Story,” is a beautiful, soft, reflection on the confusion surrounding the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Again, that sort of jadedness comes out in the fact that the group effortlessly came together to write it one band member at a time without talking or rearranging anything afterward. It simply poured out of them.
“Let’s Be Still,” the title track, is another highlight, where Russell asks for us to slow down in the midst of everything song that adds to the groups sound by infusing some bubbly synths with their classic folk sound.
While not nearly as upbeat as their last record, “Let’s Be Still” is perhaps deeper and rawer. The standout songs don’t pull it up enough to eclipse its predecessor, but it’s still worth giving the new record a listen.
Brandon Hook is Web and Multimedia Associate at Sojourners.
Photo: Curtis Wave Millard