On Headlights' debut full-length, Kill Them With Kindness, there is no shortage of layered instrumentation, which is why it's surprising to discover the Champaign, Illinois, band is only a trio. On the opening track, "Your Old Street," there's a flourishing string section that builds for more than a minute before dipping into a melancholic bridge, when Erin Fein's placid voice is first heard. Although the song is musically rich and pretty, with an equal balance of vocal melody, bells, drums, guitars, keyboards and the aforementioned strings, it never keeps a consistent pace. It bounces between sunny, pastoral pop and slower, more gradual material that may lose some listeners.
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As for the single-worthy highlights of the album, "TV" and "Hi-Ya!" both deploy urgency by keeping it short and sweet, while "Put Us Back Together" and " Lullabies" are longer, more textured and lyrically stronger than much of the bunch. Sure, there were a few songs that didn't hold my attention as much as others, but that's to be expected of a debut. What wasn't expected was the number of times I had to keep pinching myself. On nearly every song there was a moment when I felt like I was listening to Canadian Broken Social Scene-associated orchestra pop band Stars, especially on the ones with guitarist Tristan Wraight jumping on the mike, "Pity City" and "Signs Point to Yes (But Outlook Not So Good)." But despite that glaring similarity, Kill Them With Kindness is a worthy debut from this promising pop Midwest band.