Review: Headlights flash big potential with latest

adam.dompierre

“With your heart on your sleeve / There’s no secrets you can keep,” Erin Fein sings on title track “Some Racing, Some Stopping.” The line accurately sums up Headlights’ second full-length release. Taking their cues from both ’60s chamber pop groups and modern-day rockers, Headlights’ best songs strike a balance between an earnest nostalgia for the past and a contemporary sound.

Tristan Wraight and Fein trade off lead vocals over the album’s 10 tracks and the changes of pace work well. Wraight is a passable frontman in the mold of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, but Fein is the group’s more dynamic singer. Her vocal turns run the gamut from the driving “On April 2” to airy ballads like “So Much for the Afternoon.” Fein gets the most out of every melody she sings and her voice perfectly fits Headlights’ catchy, guitar-driven sound.

“Cherry Tulips” synergizes everything the band does well. Wraight provides harmonies to Fein’s lead vocals over a drum beat and shifting organ chords. The song is sincere without being sappy and never strays into the pretentious.

“I want the sea / I want the whole sea / For you and me,” Fein emotes over a wilting guitar line.

Elsewhere, Wraight’s songs fare well, though he can’t match Fein’s “Towers” or “Cherry Tulips.” Opener “Get Your Head Around It” is Wraight’s best song on the album and comes off a lot like early Death Cab.

“January” takes a page from Sufjan Stevens’ playbook with a heavy emphasis on bells and ethereal vocals — still, it feels like Sufjan on an off-day.

Wraight is an interesting songwriter and a capable singer, but some of his songs are disappointingly pedestrian. “Market Girl” passes by without making much of an impression and “Catch Them All” could have benefited from a more emotional delivery.

“Some Racing, Some Stopping” is an impressive release coming from a band that was previously unknown.

For now, one gets the impression that the Headlights are still trying to find their sound, but the possibilities are intriguing. In a crowded genre, their pop-infused brand of indie rock might have to do more to stand out.

Luckily, a few more albums like “Some Racing, Some Stopping” and the band could easily find themselves among the ranks of the Rilo Kileys and the Death Cab for Cuties of the music world. It will be interesting to see where Headlights’ career takes them.