November 14, 2010

don’t follow your head, follow your heart

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The Head and The Heart may well be my favorite new band in quite some time. With the amount of music I consume, I find that the times are getting fewer and farther between where I find myself with that fervid touch of missionary fever, the borderline frothing at the mouth in telling friends and acquaintances and random people on buses about a new band that has snagged me good. These guys (and gal) have done that, and this past week they came and rocked the faces off Colorado, happily, twice. I think parts of me are still sore from dancing.

To recap, my friend Michelle recommended I listen to them back in the springtime. She lives (and rocks) in Seattle, and was converted by their ardent live shows. I cued up “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” and it was indeed a hallelujah on tinny computer speakers (kind of like paradise by the dashboard lights, but with less Meat Loaf). I got my hands on their full-length debut early in the summer, and have not stopped listening since.

What I tell people about their music is this: it means something, and it is beautiful. The melodies get under your skin; whatever these kids have hit on, it is magic, and it only seems to be getting better with the new songs they’re writing. The three vocalists (Jon, Josiah, and Charity) hit all those sweet spots they are supposed to, rising up above the gajillion other harmony trios out there. Jon’s slightly raspy warmth, the clear and powerful depth that Josiah adds, and Charity’s lovely warble that reminds me of some glamourous voice from the 1940s radiating out of a phonograph — when all three come together, I’m tellin’ ya that something celestial happens.

And no night more magical than Tuesday night, after the band accepted my spur-of-the-moment invite at their sold-out Friday night Moe’s show up in Denver, to come back through town and play a Fuel/Friends house show in an echoey old empty home at the top of a steep driveway, surrounded by a huge stone wall like a castle of awesomeness. The waxy pastel wallpaper smelled musty, but the floors reverberated marvelously when we would all stomp and dance in time, and the arches of the ceiling sharply cast back all the vocals into a mighty chorus.

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During warmup for the house show, I sat with several members of the band in the old dining room as they loosely worked through some new songs, and I must say that the seeping richness and nuance in their artistic development is exciting. It would be frighteningly easy for them to rest on the catchy, toe-tapping melodies and clever timing changes of the nine songs on the album — that sound that makes Starbucks baristas (where their music has been playing these last few months) confidently tell customers, “Oh, yeah, this is the Beatles,” when asked. But nah. We got some real good heft coming from this band – the best is yet to be, I think.

Their debut album was self-released with no label backing and as the result of them pooling, from what I understand, pretty much all they could scrape together. The nine songs were recorded at Studio Litho in Seattle (Stone Gossard’s digs) and range from piano-laced frenzied dancing tunes to the thoughtful, soft-steeped divine.

The album is absolutely not one of pretense, which appeals to me deeply and personally. There is a hungry earnestness here painted all over their music, and maybe that’s why it hits this right into this chest. Who among us can’t sing along with their lyrics (if we’re honest): “we’re just praying that we’re doing this right”? Despite the wrestling, this album resonates with a sort of revolutionary optimism. You can hear it in Kenny’s piano crescendos, in the heads-back harmonies, and in Charity’s piercing violin. Chris’s malleable basslines percolate a richness, while the drums from Tyler echo that racing, thumping heartbeat to carry the songs through.

Call it a symptom of mostly being new transplants to Seattle, maybe call it lots of long hours staring down endless asphalt roads from windows of a white 12-passenger touring van, but I hear strong ruminations on the concept of home. In the standout gem “Down in The Valley,” Jon weaves together clippings that would be at home in old country songs to make a sepia postcard of “California, Oklahoma, and all the places I ain’t ever been to.” It is instantly familiar and relatable. Meanwhile Josiah imagines an old man trying to entice his longtime, long-overlooked partner to return to him in “Honey Come Home,” as he realizes there is nothing physical around him in the home they shared that will not break down. It is a wrestling with the temporal and physical, tempered with what will last.

The album ends with a refrain of “all these things are rushing by, these things are rushing by.” Seeing the reaction they are getting from every place they play, that line seems prophetic. Good things are rushing by them and at them, and I am so thankful they’ve taken the time on this album to memorialize a few and set them to melody.

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THE HEAD AND THE HEART
FUEL/FRIENDS HOUSE SHOW (with The Lumineers)
Tuesday, Nov 9th 2010. 8pm til real late.

Intro
Ghosts
Honey Come Home
Cats and Dogs
(completely a capella; LOVE. Watch it here.)
Gone (new song) (watch it)
Coeur D’Alene
Lost In My Mind
Pick Me Up (new song)
Winter Song
Look Outside (new song)
Rivers and Roads
Heaven and Hell (new song)
(man alive a fantastic one; watch it)
Attic Ladder
Down In The Valley

ZIP: THE HEAD AND THE HEART @ THE FUEL/FRIENDS HOUSE SHOW

(N.B.: All the new songs I am guessing completely on the titles.)

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Afterwards, following an impromptu singalong session in the darkened kitchen with the swinging door closed and the lights all turned off, we reconvened in the main room for a collaborative version of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” by special request from me who loves covers. It was messy and rough and imbued with a healthy dose of liquid courage for some of us, but I think everyone there hustled out into the cold night afterwards glowing just a little more brightly.

Both shows were opened up special by Denver’s own The Lumineers. They were absolutely fantastic & raw (hey! ho!), like this on Friday night:

So, yeah. This week is going to seem a bit pale by comparison. Let’s do it again sometime.

[all photos from both shows at the Fuel/Friends Facebook Page. The show was marvelously recorded and shared by The Flat Response.]

20 Comments »

  • 3 things
    “my my my, my my my. myyy myy”
    “all the songs people will sing for home?”
    and 3. thank you – for head & the heart on Tuesday, so much.
    (i guess 4., next year, we’ll have this week happen again, sometime?)

    Katie — November 14, 2010 @ 1:50 am

  • I listened to Cats and Dogs and Coeur d’Alene when you wrote about The Head and the Heart in your Pacific Northwest invasion post and instantly fell in love with them. Their earnestness reminds me of Blind Pilot and Band of Annuals. Since I bought the album, I’ve been hard pressed to find another album I love as much. There isn’t a filler on the album, the harmonies are wonderful, and it’s impossible not to tap your feet or even dance to some of their songs.

    I’m incredibly & eternally thankful to you for introducing me to their music. Thanks for the live recording, too.

    Anne — November 14, 2010 @ 3:00 am

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Agnes, Eversilences. Eversilences said: don’t follow your head, follow your heart: The Head and The Heart may well be my favorite new ban… http://bit.ly/b9Wqgd (fuelfriends) [...]

    Tweets that mention don’t follow your head, follow your heart | Fuel/Friends Music Blog -- Topsy.com — November 14, 2010 @ 3:30 am

  • All I can say is: I wish I was there, buddy. One of these days, the stars will align and we’ll see THATH live somewhere together…CO? PNDub? Who knows? But it’s meant to be.
    Glad I got my butt to a show in spring and raved to my friend about the band. You’re welcome, everyone. ;)

    Michelle — November 14, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  • yeah, thanks buddy…. you the best. NYE in SF? THATH in Seattle? can’t wait to see you again…
    xo

    browneheather — November 14, 2010 @ 8:36 am

  • I can’t even tell you what this band does for me when I listen to them, though I don’t think I have to, as it seems they do the same thing for you. I think it was an article you linked to about them (or just one I found on Google or something), but it was said (like you said) that they are so fantastic because they are writing about all the things we think about on a day to day basis: about doubting relationships and the direction of your life, about the joy family and friends bring you, about your hope that you can hold on to those feelings so much longer than possible, and about the constant struggle to make sense of your entire situation and location. And like you said, they are doing it without the thought of them being insincere about the subjects ever being in your mind. They feel what they are saying, they have lived it, and through their work you get to feel that same thing. It’s an amazing thing to feel through music, and I think that’s why I’ve become so obsessed with their output much like you. As someone above said, there is no way I can thank you enough for introducing them to us and allowing us to get in at the ground floor for what is sure to be a quick ascent into the hearts and minds of an obscene amount of people.

    And that cover of ‘Skinny Love’ was just amazing. Thanks so much for sharing everything in this post.

    Adam — November 14, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  • Great post! I live in Seattle and actually see the band members around town every once in a while, but I’ve only seen them live once. It was a sold-out show at Neumos with Avi Buffalo a few weeks back, and almost the entire crowd left after THATH’s set. I later heard varying reports that the headliners only had about 30-75 in the crowd. I was actually at Doe Bay Fest on Orcas Island in August, where they played a legendary set in a sweltering yoga studio, but I didn’t get to see it because I was in our tent with a cold. Major bummer, for sure, but I’m hoping to make up for that by seeing them as much as possible in the coming months!

    Katie — November 15, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  • Nice one Heather… i saw them when they came through LA and I bought the CD… really digging it… d/l’d your show, looking forward to listening to it (particularly the new tunes)

    Josh @ BF — November 15, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  • The Skinny Love cover is wonderful–brightened my day. Thanks for posting it!

    Leia — November 16, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  • [...] out Fuel/Friends’ review of this house show performed by The Head and the Heart last [...]

    The Flat Response » The Head and the Heart – 11.09.2010 @ Colorado College — November 16, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

  • [...] any great videos on-line for that song. If you like what you hear, also check out their in-house performance at I Am Fuel headquarters, which Heather has been kind enough to offer as a free [...]

    Dude Tune @ Noon: The Head and The Heart - "Down In The Valley" — November 17, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  • [...] to Heather Browne’s superb Fuel Friends blog, I got turned on to The Head and the Heart back in June and have been itching to get a chance to [...]

    SXSW Showcasing Acts Round 1 « eat songs — November 28, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

  • [...] to credit Heather Browne from the I Am Fuel You Are Friends blog for turning me on to this band.  She posted a recent house show along with a review of the band’s debut album.  The review piqued my curiosity, and I enjoyed the show so much that I headed over to eMusic and [...]

    Check out: The Head and the Heart | — December 5, 2010 @ 8:11 am

  • would love to download this house show, but the zip file messed up. i tried a few times but each time i get a zip file that when unarchived, spits out another archive file and so on and so on. help?

    malzhuri — December 6, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  • malzhuri, yes that is an intermittent problem always for some reason with the zip files I make. i am not sure the answer, other than downloading each track individually from my site.

    browneheather — December 6, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  • [...] Heart.  This Ballard sextet has been on everyone’s radar lately (see The Sound on The Sound, I Am Fuel and You Are Friends, Three Imaginary Girls) and the signal is getting louder.  This December they are opening for Dave [...]

    The Head and The Heart – thank you Ballard! « kicking buttons — December 6, 2010 @ 11:59 am

  • [...] – “The Ghost of David” and Rehersals for Depature The Head and The Heart – “The Sea Beside Me” Jon Pontrello – Youth is a Train The Lights – EP and Failed Graves Lemolo – [...]

    “My Most Played: November 2010″ | — December 7, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  • Does any one know the chords to Honey Come Home?

    Migs — April 24, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  • I fell in love with Head and the Heart when my friend put up a link to their song while i was in Las Vegas. Still recovering from the next night of debauchery, i heard Lost in my Mind, and …. lost my mind. I’ve listened to them at least once a day every day since then, and that was back in March. I became so nutso that i’m flying to Austin, Texas to see them at the Austin City Limits Music festival.The only day that wasnt sold out was sunday, and by the most sheerest of luck, Head and the Heart will be performing on that Sunday. I bought my plane ticket, concert ticket, and vacation rental within days. I’m euhphoric.

    Elissa — July 12, 2011 @ 3:37 am

  • Heather I am so glad you posted this! I am def. going to add a link to this in our forums as people keep asking for audio. We are a fairly new site and looking for all The Head and The Heart content we can find!

    Daniel — August 1, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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