Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seattle Strikes Again

I smell an obsession coming on. Seattle-based indie sextet The Head and The Heart have succeeded in recently occupying both of those things of mine, and if you get your hands on their material – they’ll capture yours too.

Sub Pop Records, a label that’s almost single-handedly responsible for that famous “Seattle sound”, signed these indie-folk dreamers onto their notoriously successful alternative rock and indie label early this year. Although as of right now their sound hasn’t stepped far over the Seattle city borders, it’s only a matter of time before it does. Being signed to Sub Pop - a label that's housed the grunge insurgence of Nirvana and indie folk-rock veterans The Shins - is what I would consider starting off on the right foot.

Their self-titled debut, which was released in June 2010, is an almost flawless compilation of silky folk sounds. Some paced differently than others, I found this to be one of the most relaxing and blissful melodic experiences I’d had in some time. Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell’s gentle Americana harmonies bundled with Charity Therien's violin strings are rightfully worthy of the comparisons to early Beatles and Neil Young that they’ve been receiving. They deserve the recognition of their thoughtful songwriting that boasts maturity, yet still celebrates their delightful naivety. They will inevitably grow strong and renowned, but are in no rush to do so just yet.

Some highlights off the debut are “Sounds like Hallelujah” which is a combination of sunny strums, Rufus Wainwright-sounding croons, and an advanced mid-song transition. The mid-song transition to soft harmonies, swooping violins and thumping country percussion, is without a doubt a skill these fresh faces have already mastered. “Ghosts”, one of their more jangly tracks, is noticeably uppity with its saloon piano and two-step percussion.

A new level of indie-folk gravity is reached with “Lost in my Mind”, a song that I can only imagine is live perfection - with its hardly-there shaker beat, pleasant keys, and easygoing strums. The song shows ripeness by imitating Wilco’s simplicity, but maintains that multi-faceted and youthful sound with their gathering gospel harmonies. Near the end, they've accomplished the the closeness of a family choir that grows more excited as the instruments layer.

My personal favourite, “Down in the Valley”, is a summer evening blend of tender guitar picking, sliding violin and countryside piano. Johnson asks the Lord to have mercy on his “rough and rowdy ways” while telling tales of whiskey rivers and ridin’ on rail cars. The interjecting high-pitched “Ooo’s” decorate the building tambourine, tap of the drum and romantic piano uprising. His ranting croons overtop stacked instruments round out the song – making it one of the most breathtaking and picturesque tracks of 2011 so far.         

If you have any interest in the handsome sound of The Acorn, Rufus Wainwright or Fleet Foxes, you will be so lucky to have your attention stolen by these six Seattle souls. Their stories are fruitful, their sounds are scenic and their heads and hearts are in the exact right place.

Check them out live tonight at Zaphod Beeblebrox.

No comments:

Post a Comment