Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Head and the Heart to headline Calvin Theater this Sunday

By Ruthann Barry

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Alternative folk group The Head and the Heart will play at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre Sunday as part of its winter tour. The six-part Seattle band, fresh off a two-month break, is rearing to get back on the road.

The group is touring in support of its sophomore album, “Let’s Be Still,” released under the Sub Pop label. The album builds upon The Head and the Heart’s self-titled debut, which was released in 2011 and introduces a myriad of vibrant alternative rock and pop elements that shatter the generalized notions of the indie folk genre.

The band’s collaboration began at the Conor Byrne Pub, a Seattle-based establishment home to the open mic nights that brought the six members together. The band, initially founded upon the songwriting talents of Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson, became complete with acquaintances met there.

Drummer Tyler Williams, bassist Chris Zasche, vocalist and violinist Charity Rose Thielen and keyboardist Kenny Hensley are each integral aspects to the band’s music and songwriting. This multi-faceted sound has helped make the group one of Sub Pop Records’ best-selling artists. Considering the fact that Sub Pop is also home to legendary bands like Fleet Foxes and The Afghan Whigs, this is no small feat.

The authentic sound of “The Head and the Heart” can be attributed to the group’s eloquent vocal harmonizing. Songs such as “Rivers and Roads” and “Down in the Valley” rely heavily on falsetto harmonies and a wide variety of instrumentation. This swift and smooth combination makes for a seamless blend of folk perfection.

As portrayed in the group’s music videos, connections of time and place were a major influence on its debut album. The videos accompanying “Rivers and Roads” and “Down in the Valley” evoke the group’s strong sense of down-to-earth togetherness.  The recently released music videos for “Shake” and “Let’s Be Still” have been gaining popularity on YouTube, as well, and serve as examples of the band’s affable nature.

Released in October 2013, “Let’s Be Still” finds space to grow and build while still keeping true to the band’s original sound. The album manages to incorporate more upbeat tracks that evoke an energetic pop-rock sound. As the band’s sophomore album, “Let’s Be Still” centers on its rise to notoriety and the ups and downs of discovering and fulfilling a musical dream.

The group’s debut release however, focuses on the beginnings of the band itself. The mobility that one discovers while on the road to fulfilling the aforementioned musical dream is explored and fleshed out in the most genuine of ways.

The set lists on the band’s winter tour will be compiled of tracks off both of the band’s albums, and fans will be delighted to witness the shift in the group’s sound from 2011 to 2013.

Most notably on “Let’s Be Still,” The Head and the Heart turned to record producer Peter Katis to help mix the album. Known for his work with Interpol, The National and Tokyo Police Club, Katis worked with the band in his home studio, Tarquin Records, in Connecticut.

With the expertise of Katis, the band’s sound comes to life with tracks that are fully rounded with echoing vocals and pounding beats. Tracks like the uplifting rock-inspired “Shake” and the airy essence of “Springtime” make “Let’s Be Still” an intimate record that captures the full range of the group’s talent.

The band’s irresistible balance of strings, angelic vocals, rock and indie folk will surely bring a unique mix of genre to the Calvin Theatre. The Head and the Heart will grace the stage Sunday at 8 p.m. 7 with openers PHOX. Tickets are $33.50.

Ruthann Barry can be reached at [email protected]

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