May 16, 2019 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.