The second album from Seattle six piece The Head and The Heart follows 2011’s rather darling self-titled debut, on which their indie-folk stylings reinterpreted the sounds of Americana for a modern audience, bathing them in warm, golden hues.
The band’s slow-burn success in the US landed them supports slots with the likes of The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie and Iron and Wine, popping them right in amongst the indie elite. This side of the pond too they’ve acquired a solid fan base, having recently sold out London’s glorious St Pancras Old Church.
Let’s Be Still continues in the same vain as their first album, but presents a more slowed-down performance than its predecessor, moving away from the lively folk of old and veering towards straight up country territory. It’s more considered, perhaps, an album from a more mature band who’ve stepped back, slowed down and taken a more calculated approach.
The result is a more pensive, slightly melancholic record that certainly doesn’t instantly engage like its predecessor. Let’s Be Still requires a more careful listen, but it’s easy to get lost and be carried away on the general lilting feel, and be at the end of the album before you’ve really noticed what’s happened.
Those who’ve seen the band live will know that singer Charity Rose Thielen, has, to put it bluntly, a ludicrously good voice on her, and the tracks she leads on Let’s Be Still are definite standouts. ‘Springtime’ and ‘Summertime’ see her come into her own further, adding some more percussive elements to her vocals – in combining them with traditional rhythms, its an example of everything coming together for the band.
The assertive, striding ‘Shake’, with its lolloping bassline, part falsetto vocals, and driving piano and drums is a stand-out, no doubt set to become a live favourite, maintaining that wistful, earnest sound The Head and the Heart do so well. Title track ‘Let’s Be Still’ is a quieter, acoustic turn, making a nice centre-piece for the album and fortifying its mood before returning to the full band sound rattling along the home straight.
At thirteen tracks, it’s stretching itself a little thin, and it is easy to lose chunks of the album to the meandering, comfortable rhythms. But a more detailed listening does pay off. Let’s Be Still is wholesome and sincere, in the way those words were intended, and without any pretence or airs and graces. Think of it as a wiser, reflective answer to the high-jinks of their debut.