Sunshine or Headlights

Headlights at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 8 November 2009

headlights at the sunset tavern

Headlights third album Wildlife, which came out on Polyvinyl last month, is something of a departure from this Champaign, Illinois band’s previous records. For starters it’s a much more confident, relaxed, prettier and not as straightforward as the previous two records. I kind of like the fact that it’s not so obvious.  That’s not to say it doesn’t have pop songs on it, it’s just that the band seems to present them from odd perspectives. One moment embracing Chicago-style post-rock, the next they’re going for the orchestral pop jugular, and then sneaking in some fancy ethereal guitar pop effects.

That’s a lot of stuff to pack in a van and head out on the road with, but Headlights brought all of that and more to the Sunset Tavern in Ballard last night. Besides the harmonies of keyboardist Erin Fein and guitarist Tristan Wraight there was the amazing rhythm section of drummer Brett Sanderson and Nick Sanborn. Watching Sanderson own the drums was easily the highlight of the set and something I hadn’t noticed listing to their records. His drumming had this trashcan staccato sound to it that reminded me of Stephen Morris of New Order, back when he actually played drums.  The Sanderson-Sanborn rhythm section seemed to be mentally joined at the hip and their fluent playing drove the songs into a more immediate and intense directions, but didn’t overpower Fein and Wraight’s bright singing.  Now that winter has decided to set in with its dark skies, rain and general gloom I know I depend more and more on bands being able to bring that summer rush of sunshine back into my life. Sunday night the Headlights did exactly that. An hour long sun-break that provided enough vitamin D to get me through the week.

mp3: Headlights – Get Going (from Wildlife, buy it from Polyvinly)


  1. paul merrill · November 24, 2009

    They are SUCH such a great band. Thanks for covering them here.

  2. liz · November 27, 2009

    Thanks for the review. I haven’t seen their live show in years and am torn about their gig in Chicago in a few weeks. They’re on at the same time as Color Radio is playing across town.

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