Review Summary: Dear and the Headlights bring a musical breath of fresh air in one of the most underrated albums of 2007.
It seems that in the world of music today, it's exceedingly rare to find something new and fresh sounding. Many bands fall into the unfortunate yet profitable trap of sounding similar and derivative, following the same formulaic structures and instrumentation as the rest of their musical peers.
I was randomly browsing Purevolume one day looking for new music, not just new bands, but original sounding bands. On a fluke, I searched through the bands on the label Equal Vision and found one name that happened to amuse me: Dear and the Headlights. At the time, I was skeptical, but I quickly downloaded and fell in love with their free demo E.P. available. This album, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, features studio versions of many of these songs along with other instant classics.
From the opening chords of Oh No!
, I quickly realized that this band was on to something good. This track features expertly crafted, soothing guitar tones that complement lead singer Ian Metzger’s tenor to a T. A discerning ear can pick out the slapback delay on the lead vocals that bring to mind the sound of The Killers.
The second track, Sweet Talk
, picks up the momentum quite a bit. This song is one of the more accessible tracks on the record. One of the standout points of this song is the addicting staccato vocals in the verses followed by a subtle, quiet hook. Upon examination of the lyrics, one will find intellectually stimulating, poignant tongue-in-cheek musings about an ex-lover’s new relationship. Even though some critics would dismiss this as juvenile, the subject is attacked with incredible maturity, sophistication, and poetic flow. This track takes full advantage of Metzger’s full vocal potential, highlighting the contrast between the quiet murmurings of the chorus and the all-out power of the final minute. His vocals are raw, emotive, and honest without ever being overprocessed, sugary, or dull.
goes back to the acoustic folk/rock style found in the first track, but with a very different approach. This song features one of the most addictive hooks on the record and a flow that is surprisingly danceable.
For [b] Happy In Love /[b], the guys take the volume down a little bit with hushed vocals and a brilliant organ and piano sound. The song never becomes dull or boring by any means. It keeps building, adding percussion, drums, and gorgeous harmonies until the huge climax.
Throughout the CD, the band never falls into the stereotype of always sounding the same. There is not a single track on this CD worth skipping, and I mean this with all honesty.
For the sake of brevity, I’ve only reviewed it track by track for the first half or so, but I can guarantee you that the rest of the album is not a disappointment, if not better than the first half. Other standout tracks include I’m Bored, You’re Amorous
, It’s Getting Easy
, Skinned Knees & Gapped Teeth
, and my personal favorite Run In The Front
It’s rare that a band can find the chemistry within itself to find the ideal sound within themselves. However, Dear and the Headlight’s music is the perfect mix between catchiness and pure emotional power. This CD enables you to have fun without being too sugary and enables you to feel something without being too weighty. It has far exceeded my expectations on every level. I would recommend seeing these guys live, as their sound is nearly as brilliant in concert as it is in a studio setting. I was surprised that Dear and the Headlights don’t have more attention than they already do, since Small Steps, Heavy Hooves
is easily one of the most underrated albums of 2007.