I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this album sitting on the shelf last week at the station after a thoroughly frustrating day full of broken computers and broken dreams of seeing Barrack Obama. I’ve been waiting (not so) patiently for this album since I got Headlights’ first album Kill Them With Kindness last spring and proceeded to listen to nothing else for weeks on end.
This one is different however, it’s not as unabashedly happy, it evokes fewer images of puppies running through fields of daises while being chased by blonde children. Or, in more eloquent record-label language it “purposefully lack[s] much of the spacey atmospherics that define the band’s earlier work.” Right. I think what they mean is this is more of a solid pop album with standard pop instrumentation: drums, guitar, bass, people singing. Unlike KTWK there are no string quartets, very little piano and accordion, and more boy vocals. While I like this album and think it’s better than some of the other stuff I’ve listened to recently, it doesn’t have the intrigue or (I suspect) staying power of KTWK. Anyone can make a standard pop album with drums, guitar, bass, and people singing and that’s not terribly exciting. What made Headlights exciting to me in the first place is that they were taking the standard pop album and making it exponentially more interesting by using weird instruments and, to use the world’s corniest phrase, “making it their own.” Some Racing, Some Stopping has its moments though, “Cherry Tulips” is most reminiscent of KTWK with dual vocals and organ, the title track is a beautiful and sparse arrangement with only Rhodes piano, a click-track, tambourine, and Erin Fein’s faraway-sounding vocals. The final song is my favorite, it’s a waltz and brings in the accordion and glockenspiel more prevalent in KTWK. It is also the perfect concluding song, the slow tempo and soft ending let you down nice and easy. Even though this is not the best album of all time Headlights are still one of the best live bands of all time and I strongly suggest seeing them on their upcoming tour.
[mp3] Headlights-Cherry Tulips