When the first song on the Headlights' debut full-length, "Your Old Street," begins -- a string group pulling and bowing in melancholic unison, a soft, plaintive cymbal, a lonely guitar -- it seems as if the tone -- sad, pretty indie pop -- has been set for the rest of the album. Yes, there are some hints of electronic instrumentation in the tinny keyboards and the guitar even gets aggressive as the song comes to a close, but mostly it's just another well-crafted pop song, sung perfectly by Erin Fein and Tristan Wraight, with the right mix of orchestration and empty space, of despair and joy. In fact, the songs or choruses in which the two singers share vocal duties are by far the strongest moments on Kill Them with Kindness (though Fein still sounds pretty good alone, a kind of extra-breathy Jenny Lewis). And it's not that Wraight can't support himself vocally, it's just that the pieces in which he does a majority of the singing are lyrically much simpler (the trite "I've got no pity for the girl in the city" line in the aptly named "Pity City," for example), almost to the point of annoyance, not helped by his feeble woe-is-me voice. Still, the Headlights are able to keep up their fun, summertime power pop without too many problems, until, a little more than halfway through the record, they decide to explore those indie electronica influences they had been hinting at. "Words Make You Tired" is a startling, and utterly forgettable, Killers-esque dance-pop track, "I Love, You Laugh" is sparse and sad and machine-driven, and while "Hi-Ya" is actually pretty fun, it comes as such a contrast to the rest of the album that it's almost hard to enjoy it. The Headlights had done such a good job with setting themselves up as perhaps the preeminent indie pop band of 2006 that their departure into the "dance" realm is puzzling at best. Maybe by the time their next album rolls around they will be able to tame their influences into a more coherent-sounding body of work that will more fully represent their abilities.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown