Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Headlights -- Some Racing, Some Stopping (2008)

Headlights -- Some Racing, Some Stopping (Polyvinyl)

This album snuck up on me. The core trio of Headlights play wispy pop music that touches on lighter melodic sounds from the ‘60s and ‘70s, while incorporating some modern elements. These songs breeze by so easily, it took a few spins for them to begin to entice me.

This process was made easier by the presence of Erin Fein, who was a key member of the Champaign, Illinois band Absinthe Blind. Her pretty vocals are a more integral part of the Headlights sound, enhancing their lush sound. Tristan Wraight is also a nice presence with his calm singing.

On "Market Girl", the band displays all it strengths. The foundation of the track hearkens back to ‘80s British indie rock, with the fixed strumming acoustic guitars and a busy New Order-ish bass line. And the handclaps are a nice touch. The addition of bells and strings make it all the better. Wright sings during the pulsing verses, but the song slows and twists to a lovely string laden chorus, where Fein takes over on the vocal. It’s like the Ladybug Transistor melding with The Smiths. "Catch Them All" comes from a somewhat similar place, Wright and Fein harmonizing deliciously.

Fein takes the lead vocal on "Cherry Tulips" which has a bit of a Motown vibe and builds up nicely to the sweet chorus. The song is gentle yet moves, if you know what I mean. The arrangement is very creative, and instruments are layered to add atmosphere to this winning track.

"School Boys" starts off with a sad reverberating lead guitar line. The organ line and the rhythm are reminiscent of the early Cure (and thus, The Shout Out Louds). But the song doesn’t quite go in that direction, even with the bursts of guitar chords that fade in and out of the track. Again, strings add a whole lot to this wispy track.

This disc straddles the line between orch-pop and more straightforward indie pop. The quality is consistent, and if Headlights can up the songwriting just a bit more (many goods songs here, but no great ones), the next album could be quite something.

No comments: