June 23, 2005

Headphones Make Headphone Music

Released May 10 , 2005 on Suicide
Squeeze Records Posted by Hello

David Bazan and Tim Walsh of Pedro the Lion have indulged themselves with Headphones, not to mention their listeners. Their experimental, stripped down songwriting technique, using only sythesizers and drums, would seem risky to most in the indie rock industry. However, the Headphones strike a seemingly effortless middle ground between low-fi and electronic. The compositions are layered, if not complicated, and require careful listening to absorb the various blips and beeps, as well as Bazan's lyrical jabs.

In this era of monopolized radio and manufactured music, this album represents a movement in the music industry away from traditional methods of production and distribution. Bazan seems to voice his frustration with the state of things in "Hot Girls," singing, "I called to beg you not to write that stupid song/ but as it happens now its burning up the charts/ and breaking hot girls' hearts/ as it masquerades as art."

The music itself speaks volumes as well. Bazan and Walsh had a simple plan for the sound of their side project. "With Headphones, we generally try to make simple, dark and pretty sounding parts on piano or synth, and then find some lyrics we don't hate." Bazan explains, "when the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin came out in 1999, the instrumental section in the song "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" flipped my lid. It was so simple and fucked sounding. I went out and bought a synthesizer immediately. I decided that Pedro the Lion would be, from that point on, only synthesizers and live drums."

They started the Headphones instead. The duo used a minimalist approach as intended, but their clever use of reverb, sustained keyboards, and vocals that alternate between brooding and falsetto, make the album pleasantly unpredictable. "Gas and Matches" is a dark and trippy introduction filled with heavy beats and filtered vocals. "Wise Blood" incorporates high-pitched, softer vocals into a frenetic background of dial tones and beats. "Pink and Brown" has a light and upbeat tone laid over with vocals reminiscent of Wayne Coyne. The album closes on an unusually sad note with "Slow Car Crash," but the heartbreaking description of two people sharing a glance before they meet their end demonstrates the depth of thought behind the lyrics, and Bazan's talent for conveying them.

To listen to tracks from the album and to download "Pink and Brown," click here.

Click here to buy Headphones