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Getting to the Heart of It

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Getting to the Heart of It

The Head and the Heart (top) and Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down.

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It's that cognitive tug-of-wa, between the desires of the heart and the logic of the head -- the heart almost always wins. the Seattle band the Head and the Heart finds joy in the in-betweens, and its in favor of the heart that they've seen their growth, selling 10 000 copies based on word of mouth.

Relentless touring has found them opening for Vampire Weekend and being signed to Sub Pop. They were touted by "Spin" magazine as new "Americana," alongside Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. Not bad for a folk outfit from the Pacific NorthWest.  

Despite that, reviews of their new self-titled record were mixed. Some celebrated the band for sticking to the tried-and-true formula of traditional folk and simple arrangements, while others, namely the bigs ones (Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound) were ultimately bored by the lack of depth, claiming the band fell flat and that they were too predictable. It's all a matter of the head vs. the heart in the end. One can easily dissect the record for inconsistencies or misinterpreted lyricism, or one can sit back with a toothpick hanging from the side of their mouth and digest the strumming acoustic guitar, the vocal harmonies, the dancing keys. 

 

What seems to be undisputed is the unbelievably cool Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down. In fact, Thao Nguyen seems to hold the title of cool in any incarnation, whether as a part of the female duo Thao & Mirah or even with the backing of the Portland Cello Project. It sounds like she never opens her mouth past half an inch, yet buttery sounds simply just fall out of her mouth. She sings about heartache, about being better, in a quarter-life coming-of-age story. You're rooting for her all the way, because she's assertive and hip, and totally fearless. But she's got slow tunes in her as well, and when she mellows out she's got a little country twang in her. After spending a good chunk of her time with her fellow BFF, the Bay Area's Mirah, she's back touring with the Get Down Stay Down, which seems to be her natural habitat. She's been busy in between, scoring music for American Teacher and even had her track "Cool Yourself" featured in the movie, Our Idiot Brother, which featured Paul Rudd. SoundDiego caught up with Thao a few months back while she was out with Mirah before their show at the Casbah, and she talked about her touring lifestyle. While revisiting that interview, I also came across this pretty fantastic illustrated day in the life of the Rumpus. I highly suggest you check that out here

 

You can catch the Head and the Heart, along with Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down, at the House of Blues on Oct 14. Get your tickets here. 

 

Nada Alic runs the San Diego-based music blog Friends With Both Arms.Follow her updates on Twitter or contact her directly.

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