TRIPMUZE rating: 94/100

Beautiful album cover=good album quality.
This is actually true in many cases, although the meaning of album cover has getting backward as the actual package has been eliminated by shifting to the digital era. Though there are digital booklet and CD, the albums with digital booklet are limited and where are CD stores now? But like Prince said “albums still matter”, album covers do matter, too. Not only a part of album materials and expressions by musicians, the album cover is a barometer to assume the album quality before purchase.

Upon seeing the album cover of “Signs of Light” by a Seattle band The Head and The Heart, their 3rd album and first major album from Warner Bros released on early September 2016, I had an inspiration that the album would be good. Full of sweetness poured from “the laid-back moment at the poolside in the mountain forest” themed cover photo. The scene was a beautiful expression of utopia. The beautiful album cover successfully caught my attention immediately from many new album catalogs on iTunes.

And I was right. Full of beautiful melodies occupied the entire album. Especially, the first 4 songs were very strong with catchy melodies. The gentle and sweet flow of harmony on the first song which totally matched with the expression of album cover artwork (All We Ever Knew), fast-paced California rock song on the second (City of Angeles), a kind love song with mid-tempo R&B taste like the title on the third (Rythm & Blues), a beautiful folk rock song like the soundtrack of a tinted adolescent movie in 90’s on the fourth (False Alarm)…I could comfortably rely myself on the flow of massive beautiful melodies.

Relatively close to Fleetwood Mac in 80’s and The Mamas & the Papas, the song variations never make me bored even I repeated entire album over and over. And the band’s music composition skill is incredibly high with combining impressive retro sound and fresh melodies.

Now here is the reality. The critics and fans reviews about “Signs of Light” album are relatively mixed and negative. Saying the band became pop and catchy. Actually, they’re understandable because the latest album by The Head and the Heart is on the totally opposite side with their previous two albums, which are on the much more simple folk side. I can imagine many fans received the impression that former Sub Pop band went to the mainstream by switching to the major label. Being 150 degrees different with their last two albums, from more acoustic side to more rock side, their old fans can easily get confused and disappointed with the new album. Their change is like the difference between the band’s hometown of rainy Seattle and sunny Los Angeles where the band composed “Signs of Light” album. Fans are basically conservative. Whenever musicians change the direction of their music, fans tend to become sensitive to the changes. I do, too. Sometimes.

But “pop” can be an easy word to state a negative change although the truth is not. Many songs of “Signs of Light” album are brighter than their previous albums but I don’t think that is a bad change labeled as “pop”. As well as that, being melodious and catchy isn’t always pop and bad.  The important points are whether the band still follows their roots and maintain a good quality of their new materials. The majority of new songs are still folk-rock basis. I don’t think the music direction of The Head and the Heart itself dramatically changed from their last two albums while sound changed a lot. The significantly different points are songs are more dramatic, the sound is thicker with more instrumentals, and the chorus is fuller than before while the sound of their previous albums was very simple, basic, and more earthy. Those changes make the album sound different, but I don’t think they are negative changes for “Signs of Light” album. Rather I consider as their creative evolution while following their basic music because the music quality of each song is higher than ever. There aren’t many albums with full of beautiful catchy melodies and harmony anymore like there used to be. I think “Signs of Light” album is more artistic than pop.

There aren’t many albums with full of catchy and beautiful melodies anymore. I thought the success of “Signs of Light” album would be important to forecast future music scene although I didn’t expect the album would have a major success. The result was “Signs of Light” album debuted number 5 on Billboard 200. I think the U.S. music scene is still optimistic.
And The Head and the Heart is from Seattle. I think Seattle music scene is really strong with them and many hidden talented artists (check SEATTLE ROCK CITY).


*Source of photos:

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