US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Listen: Let's Be Still

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The Head and The Heart (Sub Pop, 2013)

Can we agree to stop comparing everyone to Mumford & Sons? Can we just agree to let that go? Every other review of The Head and the Heart’s new album is going there, but the often unkind comparison is both lazy and inaccurate.

The Head and the Heart’s sophomore album Let’s Be Still is a great addition to any collection that includes artists like Travis and Fleet Foxes. But unlike both of these bands—and unlike Mumford & Sons—The Head and the Heart delivers a new sound that harnesses both the au courant medium of folk and spices it up with some of the residual grunge of the Pacific Northwest, where many of the bandmates hail from.

Let’s Be Still takes the promise of the band’s debut album and delivers with matured storytelling and refined collaborative results. The greatness of this album—and it is great—lies in the impressive and flexible musical abilities of all its members. Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson serve as main vocalists, but the haunting vocal contributions by violinist Charity Rose Thielen on “These Days Are Numbered” are an example of what the band excels at: collaborating, harmonizing, and lushly arranging material for the entire sextet.

Stand-out songs include the bouncy opener, “Homecoming Heroes,” and the toe-tapping fun of “Shake.” But the real magic rests in the slow ballads “Cruel” and “These Days Are Numbered,” with lyrics like “We all complain if it rains or it shines / But we’re never mad at the moon.”

The title song says: “The world’s just spinning a little too fast / If things don’t slow down soon, we might not last / So just for a moment let’s be still.” Let’s Be Still is just that, an invitation to be still for 54 inspired minutes. Don’t ignore the invitation. Your head and your heart will be happy if you pick up the album, relax, and be still.

This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 1, page 42).