REVIEW: The Head and the Heart – Living Mirage

I love the idea of a Living Mirage – something that’s real and alive, but also an illusion that’s never existed. If Schrödinger had mused over musicians instead of cats, this would have been the album that tied it all together (and he would have needed a bigger box). The Head and the Heart’s fourth studio album is a delightful paradox for the ears, and for the most part is a welcome switch up from the chilled out indie-folk we’ve all become so accustomed to.

If I’m brutally honest though, The Head and The Heart still fall into that category of bands-I-know-but-have-never-really-listened-to. I say ‘never’ – I have ‘Rivers & Roads’ on an acoustic playlist (who doesn’t?) – but beyond that, I’ve failed to connect with them in any meaningful way, at least not in the same way I have with Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers. I know very little about them, but it’s been kind of nice not having that relationship there. In the past, when I’ve listened to a new track/album by an artist or band I’ve been too involved with, I’ve felt tiny pieces of my heart fall away if I’ve had to admit: “Yeah, it’s alright, but it’s not [insert incredible body of work here].”

So in this scenario, I’ve been able to spend some time getting to know The Head and The Heart as they are now, without having to think back to how good they might have been X number of years ago. And there are some really great tracks here, but there are also others that just don’t seem to gel. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve had no real idea of what to expect, or if it’s just the choices they’ve made for this particular album.

What I do love about Living Mirage is that it’s refreshing – decidedly more indie-pop than -folk. The opening track, ‘See You Through My Eyes’, receives serious kudos points for bringing the good vibes and also making me want to dance at the same time: ‘until you learn to love yourself, the door is locked to someone else/I’m just as damaged as you are, scattered to pieces with you gone’; an accessible feeling to everyone on a human level, appealing to a wider, perhaps more mainstream audience on a whole. It’s a dreamy track that’s catching and I’ve been playing it on loop for days…

Then we have track two and the first single from the album – ‘Missed Connection’ – and this is when things started to jar for me. I feel this song and I ‘criss-crossed in the wrong direction’. It opens with the whole band chanting *la-la-la-la  la-la-la  la-la-la-la-la  la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la*… and I struggled from there.

But then things start to pick back up again with ‘Honeybee’. It is deliciously light and airy, the music drawing on the song’s namesake. Then things start to change again with ‘Running Through Hell’. This track feels like a throwback to the 80s and wouldn’t be misplaced on The Breakfast Club. This is an album which is constantly on the move, which shows daring creativity. What I’ve struggled with here is the lack of consistency, or a narrative thread that runs throughout. At the same time, I keep coming back to it. I’m genuinely on the fence with this one.

And so of Living Mirage, I’ll say this – The Head and The Heart have created an album which is both a disappointment and a triumph, both sickly and beautiful, and ultimately, I hate it (love it) and it is definitely not worth a listen (go on, you’ll love it too, honest).
Words by Kathy Halliday

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