Review Summary: When all I am is a miracle
I’m one of those Christians who doesn't really know why I’m Christian. I grew up vaguely Catholic and my family stopped attending church fairly young, but, for whatever reason, I found myself drawn back into it as an adult. If I’m being completely honest with myself, part of that is certainly due to my love for seminal Christian alternative label Tooth & Nail Records, a fact that is as truthful as it is embarrassing. No matter how much I try to reason with myself, no matter how many doubts I have or however many times I question my faith, I just can’t stop believing in God. The closest I’ve ever come to losing my faith was after my dad died. People kept telling me that he was still with us, still watching over us, and that just made me feel worse - I knew for a fact that it would be more Hell than Heaven for my dad to see my family and I living our lives but not being able to be a part of it. Whenever milestones around my dad’s life come up, I find myself being drawn more back to my spiritual beliefs. My dad’s 63rd birthday was June 5th. Heal My Head
, Valleyheart’s gripping analysis of faith and doubt, was released on June 3rd and has become the soundtrack of much of my processing and questioning.
Without a doubt, the lyrics are the highlight of Valleyheart sophomore album. They are the ideal blend between impactful but vague lyrical stylings of the “We’re Christians in a band” phenomenon, a la Anberlin or Copeland, but also don’t try to hide the fact that what they're singing is about Christianity and their experience with it. The band denies being a Christian band or even that their music is necessarily about Christianity, but there are obvious spiritual themes and much of the band’s content is inspired by their experience in the Christian faith growing up. It is, in my opinion and experience, a more realistic view of faith and religion, one that questions, that doubts, that wonders how and why we suffer, that can’t comprehend how life exists in the way that it does.
Some songs are more blatantly based in the band’s, and particularly lead singer Kevin Klein’s, experience with Christian beliefs. One such song is “Miracle”, where Valleyheart present that, no matter what you believe, the fact that we all exist is “. . . a miracle/Of cosmic chance/A goddamn miracle/Held by the hands of no master plan
." On the title track there are blatant pleas and prayers to some benevolent being for help, but also a fear of abandonment from that being. There is not a single song on Heal My Head
that doesn’t raise these questions and therefore that doesn’t sound inherently human, no matter the belief system that a person might hold. Perhaps the biggest miracle regarding this album is that it’s an album with Christian themes that sounds like it was made by real people that you could meet at a church or a grocery store or through mutual friends - It sounds more real and human than many other artists who may try to tackle the same themes. Lyrics like “Part of my head just needs someone, why do I keep these weird desires? Pulling my conscious back and forth, I’ll spend my whole left in the indecision.
” may have a different meaning to everyone who reads them, but they will almost undoubtedly have a meaning.
Sonically, Valleyheart seem to have clearly been Tooth & Nail fans in the early 2000s as well. Their freshman album, “Everyone I’ve Ever Loved”, had a combination of indie-rock and post-hardcore leanings. Heal My Head
abandons their heavier stylings, embracing those indie-rock and Midwest Emo vibes, creating a warm, welcoming sound that calls to mind early Copeland, From Indian Lakes, and, perhaps most clearly, early Death Cab for Cutie - Songs like “Your Favorite Jacket”, “Warning Signs”, and “Carousel” wouldn’t sound too out of place on Transatlanticism
, while the choruses from “The Numbers” and the title track could be straight from 2003, while managing to not feel derivative. While there are certainly points in the album where the sound gets a little too smooth and some variety would be welcome, the near cinematic atmosphere is engaging enough to keep interest. While there aren’t necessarily any musical moments that will blow listeners away (with the possible exception of the climax of “The Days”), every song creates exactly the atmosphere and feeling that was intended.
Ultimately, no matter whatever critiques may exist of Valleyheart’s newest record, it has been awhile since an album has made me feel as grounded as Heal My Head
. It takes feelings of faith that I struggle with, that have essentially been constant since the passing of my father, and puts them into a package that is allowing me to process them even just a little bit more than I was before, which I am incredibly grateful for. Valleyheart takes what are bigger, larger than life concepts and makes them small and relatable without removing the gravity that accompanies them. I am, admittedly, viewing them through a largely Christian viewpoint, but what is wonderful is that they don’t have to be. Valleyheart aren’t trying to preach and, ultimately, these songs may actually end up having the opposite effect on me - I have no idea if this new round of processing that Heal My Head
partially inspired is going to make my faith stronger or weaker, and I think that’s absolutely beautiful.