The Head and the Heart

Signs of Light

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

On their third album, 2016's Signs of Light, Seattle natives the Head and the Heart have taken the leap from melodic indie folk with Americana tendencies into full-blown radio-friendly pop. Signed to a major label (Warner Bros.) for the first time and working with producer Jay Joyce (who had previously been at the controls for albums by Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, and Keith Urban), the Head and the Heart have added several layers of gloss to their sound, and stripped back some of the most rustic aspects of their music. The group's vocal harmonies have always been strong, but for this album, the Head and the Heart have punched them up and given them a bigger place in the arrangements, just as Joyce has given them a slick electronic makeover. And while acoustic instruments dominated the Head and the Heart's early recordings, Signs of Light is awash in keyboards and samples, shifting the group's musical personality into an entirely different direction. From a songwriting perspective, Signs of Light isn't so much different than what the Head and the Heart have offered us before, and there's still a soul in this music when one can listen past the production. But that's harder than it ought to be, and most of the time Signs of Light, with its high-spirited choruses and stacked harmonies, sounds like it was made in the desperate hope that someone would license one of the songs for a television commercial. The execution is inarguably impressive, but the Head and the Heart have made much better music with simpler technique, and Signs of Light is the sort of album that confirms a fan's worst fears about an indie act signing with a corporate label.

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