Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Take yourself, right now to a place that will offer you a respite from the grinding noises and distractions that you find yourself always having to drown out with some little method that you've convinced yourself really does work. You will need the solitude to fully process and fully appreciate the complexities of the latest Headlights record, a piece of work from the Champaign/Urbana, Ill., five-piece that lives in a delicateness that requires the kind of quiet that can only be found somewhere, hunkered at the end of a rural route road where the coyotes and the opossums reign with beady eyes and stealthy strides. You will need a spot where if a field mouse walked through a tuft of wildly growing cattails and ditch weed, scurrying to get away from a bigger problem, you'd jump at its volume, thinking that you were suddenly being snuck up on by a herd of stampeding cattle. You will need an atmosphere that will sharpen the impact of everything that you're about to listen to - needing that distinction and amplification for, even with a hushed act of breathing in and out, the words of Erin Fein and Tristan Wraight will fall on you as softly as feathers slowing down, holding back. The delightfully breathy and sweet songs on "Wildlife" are achievements in softened blows, in reaching into those lovelorn corners of our memories - in the shy dreams of a sunrise - and just hanging out with them without saying a thing. When Fein sings, you ache with her, with the barely there push of her cozy whispers, tucking in beside where you imagine her words are coming from, wanting to get warm with them and tame them - make them feel as if there's nothing to be frightened of because the last thing you'd want is for them to turn away and run for cover. You treat them with quietness yourself because you feel as if that's what they want more than anything. Fein and Wraight sing about the summer sun late on "Wildlife," an album that has some of its choicest moments toward its conclusion - with "We're All Animals," "Wisconsin Beaches," "Slow Down Town," and "Teenage Wonder" being big highlights. It still feels as if this summer sun is hanging out of a sky that barks with a nasty cold to its touch. Though the sentiments burn with this stunningly romantic tone of remembered warmth, it's almost certain that these things are being thought of in draftier times, when romanticizing is more elegant. These two songwriters, along with drummer Brett Sanderson (and new members, bassist Nick Sanborn and guitarist John Owen), have a tremendous knack for writing songs that sound as if they were all written on the shortest day of the year, when it's dusk before you've even finished off a mid-afternoon coffee. Fein sings, "Cinnamon on the edge of your lips, reminds me of what I miss," on "Teenage Wonder," and it's a memory that can't help but then spoil the way everything else is bound to turn out, suggesting that there is going to be a melancholic regard to any associated thoughts, believing that the present and the future are tainted in some way. And this is where all the beautiful love always tends to get tangled in Headlights songs - somewhere in a nether region where bouquets of flowers, meaningful sentiments and heartfelt admittances are burdened with some kind of cruel fate that marginalizes any possibility of them turning out the right way. All of the roses in the world can't turn fate and all of the sun in the world cannot make a winter's day any warmer. The screaming and the shouting don't work (according to "Slow Down Town"), the shaking and stomping don't either as they mutter about the idea, singing, "Were they joking when they told us that things would work out if we tried our best." So, they quietly accept the rules that life provides in permanent ink.
Headlights Official Site