Making Flannel A-Okay

Dear & the HeadlightsIt was my birthday! So, thanks guys (and especially Eric), for letting me take the week off. Further into my twentysomethings I plunge…

But for now, something a little different. Eric and I aren’t really Vans Warped Tour kinds of people. Our tastes differ, but for the most part I think it would be safe to say that we’re more laid back, a bit experimental, and not very interested in whatever genre Warped Tour generally presents. I may be making enormous generalizations here, but guess what? It’s a freaking blog. I will make generalizations and you will argue with Dear 2them in the comment section and I will be stubborn and laugh. Just kidding, I’ll actually cry because I care a lot about what you think.

Speaking of self-awareness (which I love so much to do)…

even though Vans Warped Tour isn’t really our (or my) thing, I probably would have paid to see Dear & the Headlights if it hadn’t been on a weekday. One of my first reviews on this dear blog was of their sophomore album, Drunk Like Bible Times. And despite my feelings about Warped Tour (= OVERRATED), I’m glad for Dear & the Headlights because as far as I can tell, they really aren’t very well known and they really do deserve to be. Then again, the general public is mostly stupid and can’t appreciate the Headlights’ (the Dears’? How do you shorten this?) incredible, mocking wit and sincere, not overdone, sentimentality.

Dear 3Thanks times a million to Alex Denny, who works for 96X, a local radio station, and got these fantastic photos and an exclusive video for me.  It made me feel a little better about not being there.  I would also like to make a statement about the flannel, as they are definitely wearing it correctly.  Many people (Fleet Foxes) don’t.  You get to feeling like Dear & the Headlights doesn’t really care about making a statement with anything but their snarky lyrics, and that sincerity/intelligence is what we truly appreciate about the musicians we love.

Apologies times a million to the people in the crowd who are in this video–I know it is my nightmare to unknowingly (or knowingly, really) be in one of these looking the way most people look at concerts–sweaty. It’s okay, we don’t know who you are.

Don’t get dramatic, this ain’t the movies

The mark of a great album is that your favorite song will change every week or two.  Real life example: David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.  Can you really pick a favorite?  First it will be “Changes” because even though it’s way overrated and you want to be cool, it will be the first Bowie song you ever hear and will suck you in immediately; then it will be “Life On Mars,” then “Queen Bitch,” then eventually you’ll wrap back around to “Oh! You Pretty Things” until you finish off with “Bewlay Brothers” before you realize that “Bombers” is really freaking awesome…

But I’m not here to talk about Bowie, as much as I love him and his fancy outfits.  I’m here to talk about Dear and the Headlights’ sophomore album, Drunk Like Bible Times, which was released back in September on the indie record label Equal Vision.  Dear and the Headlights are living proof that you don’t have to be “indie” to be indie.  They have no silly instruments, no incredible bios, and no skinny androgynous-looking boys or girls.  They may or may not have written their Wikipedia page themselves, and whether or not anything on the page is true doesn’t really matter because you won’t find any other information about them on their website or their myspace.  Not to mention that their “story” as told by whoever actually did write about them on Wikipedia is maybe the most boring thing I have ever read next to the back of a shampoo bottle.

However, once you’ve listened to this album for about a month, you’ll realize your favorite song has changed at least four or five times because not only is there not a bad song on this album, every track is a gem.  Musically, these guys are fantastic.  The chord progressions are interesting (although unlike Eric, I’ll probably never be able to tell you what they are) and the form changes enough to keep my ADD self from skipping any tracks.  They have good movement over the entire album as well, hooking you with the catchy first track, “I’m Not Crying, You’re Not Crying, Are You?,” leaving you trying to catch up with “Talk About,” and then bringing you back down to peace with “Parallel Lines.”  “I Know” may be the most unexpected track (and the best drinking song), with the drums sounding like a tap dancer and a great little clapping/yelling session at the end.  What really pulls together the band’s raw style, though, is Ian Metzger’s voice.  First he’s singing, then it gets a little too intense and he’s gotta yell for a second, then he’s cool and he’s just gonna sing again.  He’s not Bright Eyes or Bob Dylan, talking through everything, and he’s not freaking Rufus Wainwright, lovely and classically trained.  He’s passionate, vulnerable, and raw, and the rest of the band is right there ready to join him.

While musically, Dear and the Headlights knows what they’re doing and they do it well, they are incredibly lyrically focused.  They are angst without emo and wit without whining, which isn’t surprising; after all, you don’t have to look much further than the name of the band or the name of the album to appreciate their cleverness.  “Talk About” is one huge string of metaphors (“I’m a passed out priest in an AA meeting/and they’re checking my pulse trying to make a decision/I’ve got those rolled back eyes but nothing’s clouding my vision”)-you’ll be speechless by the end of it, after which you will proceed to listen to it as many times as it takes to learn all the words.  The lyrics on “If Not For My Glasses” might err on the side of emo if not for their sheer brilliance (“I love your face, the way it moves, your murky mouth, your eyelid brooms/and I’m feeling that cobweb apprehension…You say I’m your white cast kid, I was born for your cares/ why you gotta label me now?”) but the lack of jadedness on “Parallel Lines” and “Flowers for My Brain” (“We’re swaying in subconscious subways so insane/but your thoughts still bring flowers for my brain/ and I still pull my hands past your ribcage/ hoping my movements might find their place at your side”) proves that they have hope despite their more-than-occasional cynicism.

I could really go on and on about the lyrics on this album, but I’d rather you check them out yourselves.  Any decent cynical idealist will appreciate the wit and the intensity.  And bonus!  You’ll have a new favorite song every week!  As for a sneak preview, you can check out some of their concert videos on myspace, but good luck trying to find any music videos from this album.  My recommendation: grab some beer and some friends and get Drunk Like Bible Times!  (But please drink responsibly.  This is a message from The Indie Handbook.)