Headlights – Wildlife

headlights-wildlifeRating: ★★★☆☆

When Headlights released Some Racing, Some Stopping, they showed hints of absolute pop glory.  “Cherry Tulips” was one of the best songs I heard that year, and I still use it, but could they build on the continued promise and move forward with their third album Wildlife?

Whilst recording the album, turmoil struck the band, and they lost a guitarist, so it won’t surprise many to see this album as a side-step, rather than a natural progression.  Erin Fein’s presence is definitely felt here more prominently than I expected, as each song is filled to the brim with her fusion of keyboards and angelic vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a record you can dismiss, it just doesn’t necessarily live up to the dreams in my head; then again, little does.

“Secrets” is one of the songs you’ll definitely fall in love with once you get your hands, and ears, on it.  Slowly it builds with keyboards and rimshots, but the faster the handclaps go, the faster the song seems to pick up the pace, before it bursts forth.   Juxtaposed to this tune is “You and Eye,” which builds on some of the haziness from the band’s first album, Kill Them With Kindness.  It’s a song that seems to trod along, built upon the voice of Fein and her little electronic flourishes.

One of the standout tracks comes just as early, but the oddity here is that Tristan Wraight seems to take the spotlight from Fein.  His voice recalls the sunny-side of pop music, and the song is structured carefully around the percussion and guitar work.  This definitely is the direction I saw the band heading when I got my hands on this album, but unfortunately it’s one of the distinct moments, only because there aren’t many songs that live up to it on Wildlife.

By the middle album, the group seems to have taken the middle ground between Emily Haines solo work and Stars. Not all will find this as a disappointment, as those bands deserve as much acclaim as they get.  But, the problem with songs such as “Long Song for Buddy” or “Wisconsin Beaches,” which is an acoustic number, is not that they aren’t enjoyable or artistic, but rather that they seem to be a lackluster performance in comparison to the brighter moments of the record, and the promise of the record before.  Clearly, the lyrics point to a darker side of the human relationship, dealing with love and loss throughout as the subject matter, but one can still discuss such things with a certain panache.  The fact that it’s not there is what holds this album back from being one of the great indie-pop albums of the year, but if you take a careful look inside, you’ll find that Headlights have left you with plenty to be happy about.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/04-Get-Going.mp3]

Download: Headlights – Get Going [MP3]

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