Smile Politely

Album Review: Headlights, Some Racing, Some Stopping

There is something to be said for growth and maturity.

Whereas Headlights’ debut album Kill Them With Kindness sounded like a band still shedding atmospheric remnants of influence from the band member’s former creative outlet, Absinthe Blind, their sophomore album from Polyvinyl Records, Some Racing, Some Stopping, finds Headlights coming into their own breezy pop sound.

These 10 pop gems are more focused, never passing the four minute mark, and recorded with such warm production they have a just-out-of-the-dryer feeling. Another change listeners will notice is that guitarist and sometimes vocalist Tristan Wraight takes the lead on half the tracks, and his breathy vocals fit right in to the romance of the album. Female vocalist and keyboardist Erin Fein still holds center stage, however, sounding more dreamy than ever. When she sings _“I want the sea/ I want the whole sea/ For you and me”_ over a shuffling tempo, acoustic strums, and organ on the albums wonderful first single “Cherry Tulips” you’ll feel like you want to make damn sure she gets that sea.

The lyrics never stray far from the topics of quiet neighborhoods, quiet car rides, and the not so innocent relationships that take place in these settings, but they are always sung so sincerely and sweetly they never come off as cheesy or heavy handed.

“Market Girl” would be my choice for single number two as Wraight’s vocals are presented with a hurried delivery over a fast paced acoustic guitar and syrupy strings that come in and out flawlessly. The title track is a wonderfully sad lullaby with Fein quietly and lovingly crooning over an array of interesting notes. There isn’t another huge anthem like “TV” as on the last album, although “Towers” comes close, and there are enough hooks and giddy fun throughout the album to keep you listening. At 33 minutes long, the album is a quick sugar rush of music that is too brief to ever drag. I could see, however, that some people might say that some of the songs tend to blend together, but there are enough little nuances to pick up on that make each song an individual.

In a genre where over dramatic and tiring melancholy usually rules (see any Death Cab For Cutie or Stars album for example) Headlight’s charm alone makes these songs sound fresh and inviting to listening ears.

Rating: 8.3

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