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Music Review: Let's Be Still

The Head and the Heart
Sub Pop Records
5/5 Stars

On their newest album, The Head and the Heart have clearly avoided the sophomore slump. Instead, on "Let's Be Still," they have embodied their essence in song. Their music is about expressing emotion in its purest, most human form. They effortlessly work their way into the hearts of listeners, proving that the band isn't leaving anytime soon.

The album's strong opener, 'Homecoming Heroes,' is an upbeat song that deftly switches between moods and styles. The track begins as a rocking jam session that then transforms into a meditative acoustic ballad. In comparison to their last album, the writing on "Let's Be Still" indicates a clear improvement in the band’s writing abilities; before, transitions sometimes felt clunky.

The improved lyrical prowess of the band is shown off in the second track, 'Another Story,' which is a deep reflection on the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “Everybody feels a little crazy / But we go on living with it,” sings Jonathan Russell in his folky, gravelly voice. The lyrics clearly reference the horrendous tragedy that rocked the nation while still applying to each and every one of us. “I’ll tell you one thing / we ain’t gonna change much / the sun still rises / even with the pain,” Russell sings later. It becomes unclear whether he is talking about the shooting, a tough relationship or moving to a new place. Rather, the song relays themes of humanity and its daily struggles. These universal messages are what make The Head and the Heart’s music so appealing. In "Let's Be Still," those messages become all the more prevalent.

The emotional appeal is greatly aided by a much richer and fuller sound than was on the group’s debut album. Electric guitars and light background synthesizers dance around the tracks, creating a more complex sound. Thick, textured songs like 'Fire/Fear' and the harmony-driven 'My Friends' show off the band's improved technique and polished sound while still harkening back to the pure folk that initially brought about their popularity.

Whereas other bands' evolutions may sound forced, The Head and the Heart has expanded their sound in a way that feels completely natural. By creating "Let's Be Still," they have given us something we can all hold onto for support as we move forward in a constantly changing, emotionally tumultuous world.

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