Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hold Tight: It's All in Your Head

There are rare times within the music world when journalists and fans can see a new talent on the fast track to worldwide attention. Yet when those realizations do hit, they come on with the power of a whirlwind hurricane. Those of us who have ours ears to the ground are sometimes lucky enough to see such a musical revolution take place, and with this new talent today, it's one of those very rare revolutions. In the same way that The Strokes broke the mold and took first the nation, and then the world, by storm, The Head too are gearing up for a takeover the likes of which we haven't seen in a good long while. 
The Head (from right): Jacob Morrell, Jack Shaw, Mike Shaw
Atlanta's newest three-piece pride, The Head, a power-trio comprising Jacob Morrell (lead guitar and backing vocals), and twin brothers Jack Shaw (lead vocals and drums) and Mike Shaw (vocals, bass and keys) are bursting onto the indie-rock scene with a flair and polish that gleam in the spotlight while still retaining their hard-rock heritage. With their first album Puckered and their subsequent EP Stockwood opening the doors, The Head's newest album, their sophomore recording Hold On, is turning all sorts of heads in the music industry, and things are just starting to heat up for these Atlanta rockers. Building off of tracks like "Miles Away" and "There Is an Ocean," songs whose rough-cuts graced their first album, The Head come back with ear-prickling tracks like "Separate Bodies, "I'm Fine with It," "Sneeze," and "Top of the World" to fill the digital bites of their second album with power, melody, and toe-tapping, catchy songwriting prowess.
One of the things I like best about the track "Separate Bodies" is the intro: simple, melodic and catchy, everything that should go into a song with crossover appeal. The intro also gives me a clue as to the influences hidden behind the backdrop: Jacob Morrell's guitar playing is immediately reminiscent of R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. Using palm-muted arpeggios to bring the melody to Jack Shaw's first snare beats, Morrell makes sure that "Separate Bodies" starts right, and just below the palm-mutes, Mike Shaw's basslines add a whole new level of depth to an already talent-filled track. As The Head build forth into the first verse and subsequent chorus, one thing is clear as can be: these guys draw from a multitude of influences to create a sound accessible not only to the hardcore alternative fan, but to the fans of power-pop, indie-rock, and prep-rock as well. As the guitar chords and arpeggios progress into full flares of sonic rainbows, The Head's rhythm section of the Shaw brothers mixes in a little of Vampire Weekend's prep-rock with the R.E.M. and Beatles-influenced melodies cranking out of Morrell's guitar. With a bridge and winding-down that hold melody tightly wrapped in rhythmic heartbeats, The Head's sound is truly that of an Americanized Oasis on Strokes steroids with Beatles polish. A clear choice for the lead-off single from Hold On, "Separate Bodies" is an immediate triumph for the Atlanta trio (and the music video's pretty sick too, see for yourself).   
As the indie-rock boys keep on rolling, "I'm Fine with It" bleeds through the speakers like a Posies-influenced aloe for anything wrong with the world. Perhaps a little lighter and brighter than The Posies (after all "Dream All Day" and anything else from Frosting on the Beater had a bit of a dark edge), The Head shine brightly on "I'm Fine with It," reveling in indie-rocking guitar notes running through forests of cymbal-cracks and bass-bumps. Jack Shaw's vocals are mesmerizing and and melodic, and from behind his kit, one would never know that he's not front and center. Proving that drummers as much as anyone can be lead vocalists, he's joined by brother Mike Shaw, whose vocal talents are no less admirable. With the Shaw brothers taking care of the lead vocals and rhythm section, guitarist Jacob Morrell fills the air with sonic butterflies of the brightest tint, as his "Ah, ah, ah's" lift up the Shaw twins' vocals to even higher plains. Most certainly one of the songs I'm sad to hear end (and more than happy to play again on "Repeat"), "I'm Fine with It" is a homerun for The Head, plain and simple.
If "Separate Bodies" and "I'm Fine with It" aren't enough to sate your indie and pop-rock pleasure, then tracks like "Stockwood," "Sneeze," and "Top of the World" will have you happier than a pyromaniac in a fireworks shop. "Sneeze" brings a Strokes-esque rhythm from the Shaw boys, and married with Morrell's Vampire Weekend-influenced guitar parts, there's nothing more I could ask for. "Stockwood" is perhaps one of the more interesting track on the album: showcasing Mike Shaw's keyboard talents, the track has a decidedly '60s sound, courtesy of Morrell's guitar chords and notes. And right on top sits (literally) Jack Shaw, the drummer with the voice of a born lead singer. Boasting lead vocals from both brothers and fretwork from Morrell, "Stockwood" could quite possibly be the undiscovered jewel on the album. Yet with "Top of the World" providing even more incredible rhythm and melody to the album, I find myself beginning to wonder if there's anything The Head can't handle. I'm inclined to answer "no."
The next level in an intensely growing catalog, Hold On takes everything The Head learned on Puckered and Stockwood and amplifies it 10,000 times. If this is any indication of what these guys are capable of, then the news is out and the future is clear: The Head have the ability to go as far as groups like Oasis and The Strokes did before them. The Shaw brothers and friend Morrell exhibit an astonishing amount of talent for a group so young, yet age is never a factor when true artistic creativity is at play. The album title says it all: hold on, and hold tight, because with The Head behind the wheel, things will never be the same.  
Sounds Like: R.E.M., The Beatles, The Posies, Vampire Weekend, Oasis, The Strokes

Key Tracks from Hold On: "Separate Bodies," "I'm Fine with It," "Stockwood," "Sneeze," "Top of the World"

Check out The Head more at: and  

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