When it all comes down to it, growth is the juicy consequence of change. The journey to get there is a risk and anyone with the guts to try deserves to be applauded…some of the time.
Signs of Light, the third album from indie rockers The Head and the Heart, is the result of some growing pains for the Seattle-based band. Reportedly, the six members, who had tired of touring after their 2013 hit “Let’s Be Still”, took a break to re-center and reconsider the direction their music before heading back into the studio.
The result is a thirteen-track LP that is a major departure from the dramatic sound, gritty percussion and and lyrical sonnets of their first two albums. “All We Ever Knew,” the first song on the album, has a markedly commercial pop sound that sounds like a catchy mashup from any given Strokes/Coldplay album. Many of the songs of the album, including “City of Angels,” “False Alarm,” and “Turn it Around”, conjure visions of car or beer commercials with their easy, poppy and, most important, generic refrains. The entire new catalogue is very similar and offers little in the way of differentiation between songs, making it hard to know where one ends and the other begins. This is disappointing for a band whose hallmark is unabashed, heart on your sleeve songs. There is also a noticeable lack of Charity Rose Thielen’s rich and haunting voice on these tracks, which gives the album a monochromatic feel.
In fairness, The Head and the Heart set the bar high with their 2013 sophomore album Let’s Be Still and it was going to be tough to top riveting lyrics like the ones from “Rivers and Roads” – ‘nothing is as it is has been and I miss your face like Hell’. Signs of Light lacks the lyrical smoking gun the band is reputed for. Interestingly, the new sound comes as the band releases its first album on Warner Bros. after a move from SubPop.
Yet truly, if this is what they want to do, you can’t discredit what them. Signs of Light is a totally different direction for the band but they are stretching and growing. They are trying a new sound that is playful, more guitar driven, and will appeal to an entirely new (and mainstream) audience base. What more could an artist want in a career trajectory really? For true Head and The Heart fans, the album doesn’t feel as personal as their past two. Perhaps growth and change isn’t always a good thing.
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