Album Reviews

Small Steps, Heavy Hooves Album Review

I am convinced that a good portion of each’s favorite albums is by chance. Any record could be the favorite of any given person. Of course, people have different tastes when it comes to genre choice, but everything else is due to a dice roll.

Dear and the Headlights is an indie rock band from Tempe, Arizona that formed in 2002. The group would release Small Steps, Heavy Hooves and Drunk Like Bible Times before disbanding in 2011. However, I don’t think Drunk Like Bible Times lives up to the standard of their freshman effort.

I’ve been putting off reviewing this album for a little bit. I find this funny because this album has been one of profound impact on my life. This album is no exception to the rule that an album sometimes finds you. Vocalist Ian Metzger’s passionate delivery and the beautiful mix of guitars settled on my heartstrings at the right time.

It’s harder for me to go back and tell you why I love this album so much. If I were to pick a song, I could explain to the period why that song resonated with me. That’s not fair to a listener who wants to experience this music for themselves. So instead I will discuss the themes of this work.

Riddled with self-doubt, introspection, and romance, this album manages to convey hard-to-describe emotion with beautiful lyricism. It is easy to write this off as being similar to every other indie rock project. One could state that this is just another manifestation of the fear, depression, and anxiety these rock stars experience growing into adulthood. It is a lot darker than that, though. Themes of suicide and self-deprecation point to someone who is struggling to identify themselves against a world in which individuality is impossible to achieve. Ideas surface that it would be easier to off oneself than to try to deal with the erosion of personality and confidence.

I feel the way Metzger processes emotion parallels the way I view the world and my art. It is never sufficient to us to explain an emotion plainly. The picture has to be drawn, and the stage set. An allegory has to be used instead of your miserable existence. Perceptions of your handicapped mind don’t seem fit to share with anyone else. People understand when you say you are, “like a paper cup with a pinprick in it.” Being this up-front with the listener can be off-putting but liberating. Bearing yourself in front of millions of people who may experience the same offers a safe harbor from the storm of emotion.

I find myself returning to different songs depending on my mood. Metzger’s singing compliments the versatility of the tracks. A quivering voice delivers lines calmly before exploding into guitar flourishes and a vocal delivery that borders screaming. Nothing makes me feel better than belting out lines along-side Ian. The song structure is never concrete throughout the album. It appears to me that the construction of songs was around the lyricism on some tracks. It is as if a new perspective formed from unshaped shards of glass. Each piece is poignant, but together they fit together as a holy mosaic in the church of life. You find the images imprinting themselves on your own experiences. Metzger sews his lyrics into the fabric of my perceptions.

I am struggling to capture lightning in a bottle with my description of this record. I think any album that can make me cry is a landmark effort. It is fitting that the band is no longer together. Different members are still creating music, but the emotional painting exists. Metzger and the lot picked up brushes to maul the canvas. What remains is one of the best albums I have heard and will forever recommend to other people. Of course, people will write it off as another indie mess, but I know if they are in the right place this album will find them.

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