2 out of 5
Produced by: Jay Joyce
Label: Warner Bros.
Aggressively milquetoast, The Head and the Heart’s Signs of Light is not unpleasant, I just have trouble identifying anything particularly unique about it, from the familiar compositions, to the reliance on structural “surprises” – ah, this quiet, sad song suddenly becomes happy pop – to the radio-ready mix and edgeless production.
Are there some wonderful singalong songs here? Undeniably. Rhythm & Blues is probably one of the album’s strongest tracks, and also one of its few to feel like a full band playing (as opposed to individually crafted studio sessions strung together – which might be a common practice, but making it sound natural is a skill), and every song manages a head-bobbing shuffle. The vocals / harmonies are really tight throughout; the players in line; though calling this “folk” by this point feels far off – moved to Warner Bros., this is now surely guitar pop, and though neither of those things is automatically a knock (a major label, a “generic” genre), the group has allowed in so many stylistic tropes in the process that there’s not much identity here.
The mix doesn’t do the album any favors – from my boy D. Sardy – though I’m guessing it’s what was asked / called for: there are no peaks here; it’s all very inoffensive to the ears.
I can understand the temporary appeal of albums like Signs of Light, with its vague lyrics of heartbreak and love and ‘life is bittersweet’ mapped to incredibly accessible tunes, crooned via pleasing call-and-response vocals and pleasant harmonies, but I also feel like these are zeitgeist-type listens: if you hear an isolated song at the right moment, a song will stick with you, but stuck into a playlist, it will pass by completely unnoticed. If you don’t own any other such slickly-produced, jangly pop, this’ll do just fine, but it’ll be easy to supplant when you discover stronger and bolder acts who’ve done or do the same with more flair and passion.