Top 25 Albums of 2011 – #5
The Head and the Heart — The Head and the Heart
April 19th, 2011
Austin’s music scene is legendary, but if you ask an Austinite why it’s earned that reputation you’re likely to get a different answer each time. For some, it’s the legacy of talent fostered by greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan; others point to the current big-name successes like Spoon, Okkervil River and Explosions in the Sky. For others, it’s the vibrant and diverse number of bands coming through town at a startling rate and the unexpectedly huge moments that can create (remind me to tell you about the Green Day secret show I went to last year).
But for me, what makes the music scene here so compelling is the transformative effect Austin can have on a visiting band. Take South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual city-wide celebration of arts and tech that attracts hundreds of bands in the span of just a couple of weeks.
During my first SXSW in March 2011, I was lucky enough to hear about an up-and-coming band from Seattle called The Head and the Heart. I saw them twice — once at a relatively understated show at Antone’s, and the other when they opened for Yeasayer at, of all things, a launch party for a major web browser. Twice wasn’t enough.
The Head and the Heart isn’t really what you might call a “great” band, but they’re pretty damn good. Their sound is honest and subdued, understated throughout; simple, melodic verses culminating in infectious choruses. For some people, their lack of distinction might be a turn-off. But simple earnestness goes a long way with me. Honestly, I might’ve played this album more than anything else this year, and every song still sounds fresh to me. That’s about as good of an endorsement as I can think of.
When I saw The Head and the Heart at SXSW, they seemed unsure of themselves; singer Charity Rose Thielen’s vocals sounded awkwardly strangled at times, especially during her solo on “Rivers and Roads.” But when I saw the band performing at Austin City Limits six months later, that temerity was all but gone. I can’t wait to see what they’re like in 2012.