Dear and the Headlights - Small Steps, Heavy Hooves (Cover Artwork)

Dear and the Headlights

Small Steps, Heavy Hooves (2007)

Equal Vision

Don't be fooled. Dear and the Headlights, despite their awful and not so clever play on words name, has a lot to offer. The Phoenix-based band combines influences of Radiohead, the Arcade Fire and even Bob Dylan in creating melody-filled rock music that leaves an impression. Think of a less complex, more rocking and straightforward Arcade Fire.

Throughout their Equal Vision debut Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, their influences are easy to spot. Vocalist Ian Metzger on the opening track, "Oh No!," goes from sounding like Coldplay frontman Chris Martin to occasionally breaking out into anguished, elongated cries á la earlier Radiohead. The chorus finds Metzger repeating the lines, "Haven't had a day alone since I met you;" it's hard to tell if this is a codependent love song or if it's a cry for some space. Regardless, Metzger sings with such sincerity to make anyone a believer. The music on "Oh No!" follows a similar path as the vocals. Opening up the track are the soft strums of an acoustic guitar which brings thoughts of a solo singer á la Dashboard Confessional. Around the chorus, drums and piano come in for a melodic and emotional song that wouldn't sound out of place on Coldplay's Rush of Blood to the Head. If this was all Dear and the Headlights had to offer, I would think for a debut this album was okay, especially for Coldplay fans.

Luckily, the band switches things up and offers tracks full of diversity ranging from up-tempo rockers such as "Sweet Talk" to the slower and sweeter "Happy in Love." Although switching it up, the band keeps the formula of opening tracks off with a single instrument, usually the guitar and occasionally both guitar and vocals as in "Run in the Front." The second track, "Sweet Talk" is about an ex-lover finding a new boyfriend and is a rollercoaster of emotions going from a full-blown rock song to the quiet and thoughtful refrain luring you to tranquility until the song blasts back the complacency. These up-tempo rocking songs are where Dear and the Headlights shine on Small Steps, Heavy Hooves. Both the vocals and music benefit from the range displayed on their debut album, the lyrics mainly focusing negatively on lost relationships and love could use a touch-up but maybe gives justification for their awful name.

On Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, Dear and the Headlights displays their knack for writing excellent melodic and emotional rock songs. In little over a year, they emerged from the vast and treacherous sea filled with an abundance of bands and made themselves a name. Their debut will continue to raise Dear and the Headlights into a household name, or at least in lights on top of the marquee.