The Oh Hellos, a sibling duo out of Texas who have mastered the art of wistful and lyrical folk, moved crowds at the Majestic Tuesday night. While it’s easy for folk music to get lost in the background, occasionally losing its spark and emotional resonance in harmonic vocals and string instruments, Tyler and Maggie Heath kept the crowd in a trance of nostalgia. On their website, the Oh Hellos say that their music “started in a cluttered bedroom” and is inspired by, among other things, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The tone this creates, one of childhood nostalgia and sentimentality, comes through in their performance. It’s almost like a conversation between two siblings. Their three most recent albums, Eurus, Notos and Dear Wormwood, are written like stories, and their set matched this theme.
They began the show with the title song of their newest album, Eurus. As an optimistic song led by a violin, it set an upbeat tone to the show. It struck me during the first song just how different The Oh Hellos are from The Head and the Heart — the group they are most often compared to. Though they’re both folk groups who sing of love, friendship and exploration, The Oh Hellos bring something different to the table. Their strong vocals and gripping use of strings bring both excitement and wistfulness to the concert hall, and they make it hard to keep your mind from wandering towards your most tender memories. I think that’s just the point of their music. When people spout opinions regarding the originality of a multitude of indie folk bands, saying they’re all the same, I sometimes find myself agreeing. However, it’s hard to deny the fact that Tuesday night at the Majestic was a night filled with warmth and reflection, which is a valuable thing for an artist to achieve.
The next few songs were also pulled from their most recent album. an earthier and more experimental take on what they’ve accomplished in the past. It’s a project which parallels Bon Iver’s transition from Bon Iver to 22, A Million, though maybe not as ambitious. While still playing into the heartfelt folk that their fans love, both the artwork and the sound of the album ushered in high energy and a more modern take on what folk music can be. These songs, which are part of an album that ebbs and flows with artful transitions in the form of a story, carried the concert until near the end, where they concluded with some of their older and more well-known tracks, including “The Valley” and “The Truth is a Cave.” These songs pull at the heartstrings with their magical use of folk and string instruments, as well as their clear story-telling. “The Truth is a Cave,” specifically, is a story in itself. It details the highs and lows of growing up, diverging from the expectations of those who raised you, and finding truth.
The storytelling ability of The Oh Hellos is really staggering, and sets them apart from several other indie folk bands who share the genre. Their albums Notos and Eurus are two of four albums in a four-part series, with the other two yet to be released. After attending the concert and witnessing the unique brother-sister dynamic, I’m excited for the next two releases in the series.
THE OH HELLOS