When The Head and the Heart self-released their debut album back in ‘09, who could’ve guessed they’d sell over 10,000 copies by word of mouth alone? That got the attention of Sub Pop, the label who snatched up the Seattle band and sent them on tour to seek their fortune. The title of The Head and the Heart’s second LP, Let’s Be Still, can be read as an appeal for respite following two years of relentless touring. The same goes for the album’s idyllic cover photo, which has two band members sprawled atop raw sienna grass, gazing up at a clear blue sky. It’s a rare moment of peace for the young folkies, a well-earned rest following their interminable string of gigs.
According to frontman Josiah Johnson, Let’s Be Still is “imbued with the experiences of traveling the world…a snapshot of a band that didn’t exist just four short years ago.” Johnson credits touring with groups like Iron and Wine, Death Cab for Cutie, and Dr. Dog for inspiring The Head and the Heart’s expansion into “new sonic spaces.” Guitarist Jonathan Russell, having been struck with the urge to go electric while opening for My Morning Jacket, agrees wholeheartedly: “I’m sick of just strumming my acoustic guitar.” Let’s Be Still benefits tremendously from this expanded and diversified approach, as the Seattle sextet experiments with groovy electric guitar riffs, coruscating synths, and deft time signature shifts that keep the listener off balance in all the right ways.
When The Head and the Heart landed on Sub Pop, many dismissed them as one-trick ponies. Sure, they had fantastic vocalists, but Let’s Be Still proves the Seattle band is more than just a crisp set of pipes. Here, they draw upon lessons gleamed from touring with veteran groups, tinker and tweak their sound to the tune of fresh instrumentation and unconventional timing, and stick their toes in the swampy morass of sociopolitical commentary. And, in flashing the confidence to step outside their comfort zone of folksy harmonies and Guthrie-derived lyrics, The Head and the Heart insist they’re moving forward, not being still. — Consequence of Sound