Josh Bis

Some big labels and managers are courting the Head and the Heart, and it's not hard to see why. They're a fresh-faced young band (in both senses: The group is just a year old, and its members are mostly in their early 20s), good looking and well styled, making big, broadly appealing music. The Head and the Heart are going to be huge.

Maybe the biggest difference between the Head and the Heart and the band they were opening for last Wednesday night at the Paramount, Vampire Weekend, was one of tone. Vampire Weekend like to play (rather transparently) with the overlapping of irony and sincerity. The Head and the Heart are 100-percent earnest, heart-on-sleeve, "feeling it" to the rafters—theatrically so, in fact, to the point of affect. They seem like they've never had a sarcastic thought in their lives. It's all heart and no head. To me, that seems more disingenuous than borrowing an African keyboard tone or whatever Vampire Weekend have been accused of faking.

Stagey sincerity aside, the Head and the Heart are clearly talented. Their songs begin with a simple guitar strum or a lone singer and then climax in big, wide-open, and yearning vocal harmonies with clapping and stomping crescendos of violin and piano. In between, there's a little bit of busking-family-band vibe, a little melancholic pub thumping and honky-tonk piano. The stomp and strum and howl recall the Avett Brothers; the grand rave-ups and "whoa-oh-ohs" suggest Arcade Fire. The female singer/violinist, when she's on lead, has a vaguely twangy, country-ish voice and does that thing where she sort of half swallows the last consonant of a word, the gulping down somehow making it sound more powerful. The guys are all clear and commanding singers, a little Virginia twang in there, and everyone harmonizes on point.

The songs telegraph big emotions without revealing anything so individual in their lyrics as to be alienating (there are lots of wordless, sort of scatted choruses)—which on some level is just how successful pop music works. But I like a little less platitude and a little more personality. The Head and the Heart strike me as being like a Carissa's Wierd that never had a really bad day in their lives, all terminally good-looking and full of self-esteem (as opposed to "ugly but honest"). Then there's the vaguely Jesus-y vibe—a "Bible" here, "praying" there, some "lord have mercy," a song about how it feels to sing "hallelujah for the first time." (That last song, one of their best, begins as a kind of dreamy Beach House slow dance, eventually picking up a pace where almost every line—"I miss you some day"—gets repeated as a mantra, a song built entirely of choruses.)

So, yeah, these guys are going to be huge. The half-full but filling-up crowd at the Paramount sure went for them, cheering wildly, clapping and stomping along (especially to the a cappella closer of "Rivers and Roads"), someone shouting, "You're so hot!" When they finished, my friend said, "I feel like Cold Mountain just ended." But, whatever—a lot of people went to see that movie, right? recommended