The Head and the Heart – Living Mirage (Album Review)

The Head and the Heart – Living Mirage (Album Review)

A new strain of Alternative music emerged in the 2000s, something that combined the subtleness and quirkiness of Indie Pop and the laid-back rusticness of Folk and Pastoral music. Thus, Pastoral/Indie Folk was born, which continues to be represented by the music of bands such as Bon Iver (“Skinny Love”), Boy & Bear (“Feeding Line”), The Decemberists (“Make You Better”), The Strumbellas (“I’ll Wait”), and, yes, The Head and the Heart. Speaking of which, The Head and the Heart is unleashing its follow-up to 2016’s Signs of Light.

Formed in 2009, in Seattle, Washington, United States, The Head and the Heart consists of Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Thielen (vocals, percussion, violin), Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (keyboards), Tyler Williams (drums, percussion), and newest edition, Charity’s husband, Matt Gervais (guitar, vocals). In its decade-long activity, the group will have released four studio albums—from the self-titled debut of 2011 to the forthcoming Living Mirage.

Slated to be released on Friday, May 17, 2019, via Warner Bros. Records/Reprise Records, The Head and the Heart’s fourth offering was born after the members came together in the Mojave Desert’s Joshua Tree. Soon the writing and recording proceeded to Appleton, Wisconsin’s The Refuge Fox Cities, West Seattle, Omnisound in Nashville, and Barefoot Recordings in Los Angeles where the band brought together their vision with Tyler Johnson and Alex Salibian (Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Cam), along with Engineer Ryan Nasci. 

Eleven tracks in total, it opens with the catchy mid-tempo “See You through My Eyes,” whose male-female vocal interplay adds more flavor to the already delectable harmonies—an element that is showcased throughout the album to great and welcome lengths. This is followed by the pulsating rhythm of leading single “Missed Connection.” Then there is the folky, countryside predisposition of the slightly syncopated, piano-glazed “People Need a Melody.” With the ensuing Gospel-inspired “Honeybee,” The Head and the Heart then further showcase its surprising propensity for balladry.

A change of style and mood, the piano-charged “Brenda” then takes the listener to a much more melodic and nostalgic direction. A further trek into Country realms then follows in the form of “Running through Hell,” only to tickle again the listener’s Pop sensibilities with “Up against the Wall.” Then comes the slow soulful and inspired piano-led ballad “Saving Grace” followed by “I Found Out”—another pulsating song of love and strings. Coming near the end of the album, the title-track appears as a harmonica-laced, graceful piano-bit, semi-acoustic song. Finally, The Head and the Heart closes Living Mirage appropriately with the twilight acoustic-guitar piece “Glory of Music.”

With every album that it releases, The Head and the Heart is obviously expanding its musical horizons not only outwardly but also within—musically and lyrically—to great effect. Living Mirage is a proof of this willingness of the band members to explore and exhaust all their musical influences. It is also evidence of the courage to soldier on with such a classic and traditional style amidst other equally interesting yet modern and technologically enhanced music. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Living Mirage 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Living Mirage:

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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