The Head and The Heart

I was introduced to The Head and The Heart last year right before they signed to Sub Pop Records. At the last minute, we crammed them into our Top 50 albums of 2010 (at 47), but they should have been much higher. If we had seem them live prior to compiling our list, they would have cracked the Top 10. Their set at Antone’s at SxSW 2011 was one of the highlights of the fest for the HearYa contingent. Their songs come to life in a live setting and they left that crowd in euphoria after their set.

First up at The Metro on Tuesday was The Devil Whale, a 5 piece out of Salt Lake City. I downloaded their recent album, Teeth, after seeing that they were opening up this night’s festivities. The album has a Dr. Dog feel and although we arrived late to the show, I caught enough of their set to call myself a fan.

Next up was Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Can’t say I am a huge fan of Thao, but she does put on a solid show. The songs are upbeat and catchy and Thao is, well, sexy. They played Antone’s with The Head and The Heart at SxSW and I had the same feeling I did that night. I would never go out of my way to see them, but I always have a good time once I’m there.

Finally, Seattle’s latest and greatest hit the stage to a very full and very excited Metro. And they certainly didn’t disappoint – the crowd sang along to every word. To think that one year ago, they were a mostly unknown band from Washington. Now they are signed to an iconic label, regularly played on the radio and playing to a crammed Metro. It’s been a meteoric rise and one I hope they’ve had the time to enjoy.

The band cranked through all the tunes on their excellent debut. During “Lost In My Mind,” The Devil Whale and Thao came out for a massive conglomeration of beards and percussion. It seemed like there were more people on stage than at the end of The Last Waltz. It was killer. The band closed their set with “Rivers and Roads” which sent the crowd into a tizzie. When Charity steps to the mic, the place exploded. As my one friend said on the way home. “I don’t know her name but she needs to sing a lot more.” I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Her unique voice brings a new element to the band and really cements them as something special. They emerged for a 2 song encore that included a new song that Jonathan Russell sang solo and then the closer, “Lost In The Valley.”

The crowd left satisfied and I was ecstatic to hear three new tunes. I’m always concerned when a band has such a quick rise. Are they going to stay true to their sound or veer more towards the commercial side of music? Based on the three new tunes, I have a lot of confidence in The Head and The Heart moving forward.

The video below is from their set at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop this year. That happened to be my first set of SxSW and set off a wonderful week in Austin. And while that was a nice setting, seeing them in a packed venue is a must. They will knock your socks off.

The Head and The Heart – Lost In My Mind

The Head and The Heart – Rivers and Roads (Live at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop w/ KEXP)

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – When We Swam

The Devil Whale – Magic Numbers

The Devil Whale – Magic Numbers from Tonality Magazine on Vimeo.

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The Head and The Heart were one of the brightest spots at SxSW 2011. I wasn’t fully sold on them until seeing them perform at Antone’s where they won over the capacity crowd with an energetic set. Their debut album, which we compared to a blend of Blind Pilot and The Avett Brothers, has been in steady rotation since my return from Austin. Seeing The Head and The Heart in person will definitely give you a greater appreciation for the album.

You can also download my favorite single on the album, “Down In The Valley,” below.

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I first caught wind of The Head and The Heart on KEXP last summer. I made a mental note to buy the album, but promptly forgot about it and moved on with my life, seemingly happy without The Head and the Heart in my life. Alas, they appeared on NPR’s site recently and I decided that there was indeed a void in my life without The Head and The Heart in it.

This Seattle sextet has now been added to the soundtrack of my life and my immediate reaction was to compare them to another Northwest outfit, Blind Pilot from Portland. Like Blind Pilot, The Head and the Heart play a textured sort of Americana and one of their lead singers (either Josiah Johnson or Jon Russell) sounds awfully like Israel Nebeker.

Two tunes in the middle of the album are just stellar. “Down In The Vally” and “Honey Come Home” blend the aforementioned Blind Pilot with keys that feel influenced by The Avett Brothers and they are a perfect pair, one following the other.

Already buzzing in Seattle and recently signed to Sub Pop, you’ll surely hear an endless amount about The Head and The Heart as their star rises this year. Oz and I listened to this one or two times when we were compiling our top 50 albums of 2010 and immediately knew it belonged. Truth be told, it belongs higher than our ranking.

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