Headlights: Wildlife

An underappreciated band on an underappreciated label, Headlights began coming of age last year with a lithe, summery sophomore effort, Some Racing, Some Stopping. But the pain of leaving the past behind is as much a part of growing up as the thrill of establishing a personal identity, and it’s that pain that the Champaign, Illinois band explores on Wildlife. The inviting early-June seascape of Some Racing’s “Cherry Tulips” has given way to the cold days and closed windows of “Wisconsin Beaches.”

Credit Wildlife’s autumnal atmosphere to its unbuffed edges, like the creak of vocalist-keyboardist Erin Fein’s piano bench at the start of “Teenage Wonder” or the audible “three, four” count off in “We're All Animals.” Despite stripping away some of the sheen of Some Racing, Some Stopping, the band hasn’t sacrificed that record’s pop-classicist streak; Fein sounds like a girl group of one on “You And Eye,” and she and her bandmates build an econo Wall Of Sound behind “Get Going.” An often gorgeous and heartbreaking record, Wildlife is kept out of the canon of great growing-pains albums by some stagnant lyrics—the word “friends” comes up far too much—but it’s a worthy seasonal soundtrack for anyone surrounded by falling leaves and fair-weather, er, chums.

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