Quantcast
Monday, February 28th, 2011

Sounds Like Hallelujah

The Head & The Heart at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe technology woes that made the end of last week so unexpectedly… interesting have largely been resolved – hello from my new laptop – but Thursday night was most definitely an evening that I was perfectly fine with not having anything to do with anything electronic. In other words, an ideal time for The Head & The Heart.

The acoustically-inclined Seattle six-piece’s self-titled debut was originally self-released last year but being rootsy, harmonious and from the Pacific northwest it was inevitable that Sub Pop would come a-calling. And so it was that between the digital re-release of the record back in January and its physical re-release on April 16, the band were on a transcontinental tour, both as support for the likes of Dr. Dog and The Walkmen and as headliners, as they were this evening. So even though the full promotional push for the record was probably yet to come, word had clearly already gotten out to some degree and a decently-sized crowd as in place to welcome them to Toronto for the first time.

It’d be easy and not entirely inaccurate to assume from the beards and toques that The Head & The Heart would be easily comparable to their geographic and label brethren in Fleet Foxes or Band Of Horses – certainly they’d be listed as RIYLs – but to my ears the best reference point comes a few thousand miles southeast and a decade in the past – specifically, Pneumonia-era Whiskeytown. Though they build their sound on Kenny Hensley’s piano rather than with guitars, there’s more than a bit of Ryan Adams twang in frontman Joseph Russel’s voice and Charity Rose Thielen’s contributions on vocals and violin are reminiscent of Caitlin Cary and her fiddle. And more than that, their songs share the sort of rich and finely-arranged melodicism that Whiskeytown achieved on their swan song once the punk-rock raggedness was fully contained.

But that’s just a reference point, and doesn’t account for the fact that rather than evoke the sort of weariness that Whiskeytown did – even when smoothed out – The Head & The Heart come from a much more wide-eyed and optimistic place, and the enthusiasm that goes along with that was fully on display in performance. You wouldn’t think that they were dancing in the studio while recording the record but after seeing them play, you can’t imagine that they weren’t – rarely were they stationary while playing, instead stepping and sliding around the stage, moved by the music. With Josiah Johnson and Russel alternating lead vocals – the former’s croon contrasting nicely with the latter’s rasp – or together with Thielen filling out the three-part harmony, often delivered with a gospel-ish fervor. Though the record only clocks in at around 35 minutes, they managed to fill out an impressive and energized hour-long set with a couple new songs and humble, charming and appreciative banter. A superb local debut from an act that we will be hearing much more of in the future.

Creative Loafing and Seattle’s City Arts have interviews with the band.

Photos: The Head & The Heart @ The Horseshoe – February 24, 2011
MP3: The Head & The Heart – “Down In The Valley”

Filter pits tourmates Josh Ritter and Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison in an interview throw-down.

Spinner talks to Lissie.

Paste catches up with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, who’re at the Sound Academy on March 13.

Incendiary interviews Wye Oak, whose new record Civilian is out on March 8 and available to stream at NPR right now. They play The El Mocambo on April 9.

Stream: Wye Oak / Civilian

Also streaming at NPR is The Mountain Goats’ latest All Eternals Deck, even though it’s not out for over a month – it has a street date of March 29. They’ll be at The Opera House on April 3.

Stream: The Mountain Goats / All Eternals Deck

Portugal. The Man, whose latest American Ghetto came out last year, have put together a Spring tour that stops in at Lee’s Palace on May 27.

MP3: Portugal. The Man – “People Say”

Spinner chats with J Mascis, whose new solo record Several Shades Of Why is out on March 15 and who has a couple of performances on tap in Toronto for March 11 – an in-store at Sonic Boom at 5PM and a full and proper show at The Great Hall later that evening.

Drive-By Truckers work the media as Patterson Hood of talks to Jambands, Mike Cooley chats with The Lincoln Journal-Star and Shona Tucker with The Las Vegas Review Journal, all for their latest album Go-Go Boots.

Tiny Mix Tapes talks to some of the performers taking part in the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour that rolls into Lee’s Palace on March 18.

The Wall Street Journal profiles DeVotchKa, who release their new record 100 Lovers tomorrow. They play The Mod Club on March 30.

R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills talks to Billboard about why the band won’t be touring behind their new record Collapse Into Now after it’s released on March 8. A stream of the record will be posted at NPR tomorrow at 2PM EST.

By : Frank Yang at 8:38 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post3 Responses.
  1. Jen says:

    Yes! So much yes.

  2. Adam says:

    Nice review of the show. I saw them in Chicago a few nights later and it’s amazing how captivating and tight they are as a band for how young the band really is. One of the most fun concerts I’ve ever been to. Been really into them since the summer of last year and it’s awesome to see them blowing up a little (they sold out the Chicago show, which is, as you point out, sort of incredible given that they don’t physically have a CD out at this point). I’m sure the hype machine is just starting to churn for them, but based on the album they’ve produced (and the new songs I’ve tracked down from various blogs and the new one we heard in Chicago), it appears they are more than deserving.

    And not to be ‘that guy’ but just to let you know, it’s Jonathan Russell and your Conor Byrne figure is actually Josiah Johnson. Conor Byrne is actually where the band got together and got on their way.

  3. Frank Yang says:

    definitely appreciate the clarification – so many names in the bio, obviously I got confused.