Indie rock; what is the official meaning of this term that is equally loved and hated by all? Is there an audible aspect defined by genre and/or musical style, or does it just describe the process or state of mind of making music? Welcome to the seemingly decade long debate that has no end in site. Enter Dear and the Headlights, a five-piece rock collective from Phoenix, Arizona. Their sound is not easily definable, yet oddly familiar. Really, Dear and the Headlights debut album, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, is an amalgam of many styles; whatever moniker you choose to give (rock, indie, emo, pop), one cannot contain them. A tell tale sign of this is producer Bob Hoag, who’s diverse production and recording credits include: Scary Kids Scaring Kids, The Format, The Bled, and The Ataris (of which he is a member), to name a few. Dear and the Headlights’ ability to have a song-for-hire type of style really pays off, as each song is distinct while collectively coming together to create phenomenal debut album that awards the listener with each repeat listen.
The album opener “Oh No!” really sets the tone, with acoustic guitars leading to weaving guitars, hard hitting melodies, and lyrics that will make you watch your back. These attributes give a glimpse at what the album as a whole is going to give you, and sets up one of the album highlights in the form of “Sweet Talk”. The song is a bitter homage to a relationship’s abrupt end by means of promiscuity: “Hold his hand now / Out on the mission field, your hearts compatible / Mine breaks alone alone alone / Your new boyfriend, you’ve got your new boyfriend / I bet he likes you more than he likes me.” Ian Metzger’s vocal style and ability propels the songs to convey the feeling he felt as they were being penned, which spans sour relationships, love, betrayal, and confusion. “Skinned Knees & Gapped Teeth” begins with a bending bass line that ushers a slew of stammering confessions to himself and perhaps his mother: “And when you taped over a good half of the wedding tape / I know you never thought Thundercats would ever be the end.” This honesty and quirkiness translates into something you can immediately relate with, whether it was trying to convince your speak-n-spell to spit profanities, or taping over something important with Saturday morning cartoons.
Like many 20-somethings today living their seemingly aimless lives, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves realizes the close link between tragedy and life, but also makes you smile with the relevant moments that put you back in your place. Whatever “indie rock” definition you adopt, Dear and the Headlights comfortably fits them all with pristine accuracy. After a heavily 90’s influenced guitar solo, the resonating crooning of the epilogue in “Run In The Front” says it best: “Hours to waste turns into full weeks, then months, then into me / A life long disease / The gray in your hair still means hope for me / That beauty won’t be hidden easily / That truth could still hold true for me.”
For fans of: Death Cab for Cutie, Midlake, Jimmy Eat World
01. Oh No!
02. Sweet Talk
04. Happy In Love
05. I’m Bored, You’re Amorous
07. It’s Gettin’ Easy
08. Paper Bag
09. Skinned Knees and Gapped Teeth
10. Run in the Front
11. Mother Make Me Golden
12. I Just Do
13. Midwestern Dirt
[I had this review in my back log, thought I would post it for your enjoyment.]