PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Headlights: Some Racing, Some Stopping

In which the Champaign, Illinois trio steps away from indie rock and jumps headlong into…indie pop.


Some Racing, Some Stopping

Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2008-02-19
UK Release Date: 2008-03-17

With Some Racing, Some Stopping, the Champaign, Illinois trio Headlights steps away from the indie rock of its previous two efforts and jumps headlong into... indie pop territory. Gone are Tristan Wraight's crunchy guitar chords and Erin Fein's art song proclivities. In their place are eleven atmospheric tracks that flirt with classic pop, dream pop, girl group stylings, psychedelia and even bubblegum. Unlike the band's previous two efforts, the Enemies EP and the 2006 CD Kill Them with Kindness, this disc isn't something you'll want to play loud. Instead, you'll want to play it endlessly because the songs are first-rate, the songs are wonderful and…did we mention how good these new songs are?

Even when it gets spacey, the songs on Some Racing, Some Stopping have hooks so catching that if they were a disease, well, I for one would be dying 1,000 deaths. Somewhere along the line composers Wraight and Fein figured out how to craft arrangements that brought out the best in their fragile melodies -- and vice versa. From start to finish, there's hardly a dull spot in the lineup. The biggest problem, in fact, is that there's only 33 minutes of music, so every time you play the disc you're left wanting more (hence the above comment about putting the CD on repeat play). There are shades of Rilo Kiley and Rooney, and even Wraight and Fein's old band Absinthe Blind. But Headlights is starting to define its own sound this time around.

The opener, "Get Your Head Around It", sets the tone for the album. Wraight's light electric guitar plucking and boyish vocals mix with Fein's bells to form a dreamlike sound space, after which Brett Saunderson's drums come marching in to lend some groove to the proceedings. "Cherry Tulips", the single, is pure pop candy, an upbeat dance track that has Fein's multitracked vocals running circles around each other in its chorus.

"Market Girl" finds Wraight complaining about some of life's little ups and downs, but his lyric is juxtaposed with one of his most exquisite melodies, making the song either an ode to survival or sadness, depending on your mood. Sleigh bells and a glockenspiel reference 1960s music, as does the Mersey Beat drumming in the following number, "April 2". Both tracks underscore Headlights' unique knack for being able to play music that rocks but still sounds light on its feet. Similarly, Headlights can evoke sounds of yesteryear and also sound up to date, thanks to their smart arrangements and production (the band self-produced the disc at home; Saunderson served as engineer).

The title track is a slow, mournful Fein ballad that uses the metaphor of beating hearts to bemoan people's lack of communication. It's probably an intentional metaphor that her voice is run through a filter here, because even while the spare arrangement leaves lots of room for her singing, it still sounds like she's struggling to communicate. The following track, "So Much for the Afternoon", conjures an entire world using scant instrumentation except some keyboards and Fein's multi-tracked "ooohs" and “aaahs", which carry the melody line.

An arpeggiated guitar line gives "School Boys" a majestic introduction before it moves into a zippy dance groove. Wraight's lyric consists of a bunch of enigmatic lines ("silence all the way home"); it's up to the listener to piece together what he's trying to say. The closer, "January", finds Wraight ruminating about the passage of time to the accompaniment of little more than his acoustic guitar and some percussion. Yet by the tune's end, you start to notice keyboards and electric guitar creeping in, marinating the tune in some melancholy counter-melodies.

The problem with writing about Some Racing, Some Stopping is that the songs seem to float by on gossamer wings, as they say, and it almost feels describing them too intricately would strip away their magic. Some Racing, Some Stopping has the ability to lull you into a dream-like trance, but still keep you tapping your foot all the while. How many records can you say that about?


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.