Release Date: Oct 6, 2009
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Headlights' third album, Wildlife, is at once their most immediate album and also their most reserved-sounding and emotionally powerful. Recorded over a relatively short period of time but punctuated by false starts, frustrations, and departures of bandmembers, the band ultimately ended up with an intimate and very personable sound. Using first takes and almost no production tricks, the strength of the record lies in the unadorned emotion of Erin Fein's vocals, and the wonderfully sweet and heartfelt songs the group wrote.
The first track on Headlights' newest album is called "Telephones", but there are a half-dozen other songs on Wildlife that could've feasibly been titled the same. Phones are all over the indie pop band's third full-length effort: they ring with no one to answer them; calls are short and only reinforce the distance, both literal and emotional, between yourself and the ones you love. The telephone serves as the great motif and most pernicious tool in reinforcing the album's overriding theme, which is how frail, fraught, and difficult to maintain the connections are between family, lovers, and friends.
There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the latest album by Champaign’s fizziest indie rockers, Headlights. The doe-eyed, co-ed torch singing; the politely raucous sheens of analog organ and electric guitar; the careful balance of drifty ballads and peppy rockers—it all amounts to forty-minute come-hither. Why, then, does it feel kind of low-impact, despite being crammed with swoon-worthy gambits? The steady kick-drum finally slicing into the thick melody of “Telephones,” the keen handclaps and tangled-neon guitar leads of “Secrets,” the towering crunch of “I Don’t Mind at All” — none of it sounds as exciting as it should.
Wildlife, the third album from the indie-pop featherweights Headlights, isn’t exactly the sprawling, tooth-and-nail kind of romp that its title would have you believe. In fact, as a quick disclaimer to the curious outdoors-inclined music enthusiast, it should be noted that there aren’t any cricket chirps, campfire singalongs, or bird calls to be found on the album—which, aside from featuring a song titled “We’re All Animals”, doesn’t really have much to do with the great outdoors. Not that that’s a bad thing; since the band’s inception in 2004, the Illinois-based five-piece has whipped up enough sugar-coated pop nuggets to entice even the most salt-of-the-earth backwoodsman.