Jeremy Nail — Behind The Headlights
Some records just fit a mood. I listened to Jeremy Nail’s fifth album over two rainy days in Denver (we get, like, seven in a year, so they stand out), and his look at a kind of constructive loneliness works just right on a day best left to thinking. Behind The Headlights is introspective and atmospheric as Nail bridges the gap between running away from life’s problems and moving on from them.
The album’s first track, “Man Who Drove Away,” deals with that urge to flee and avoid trauma. Over acoustic guitar and mandolin, Nail sings of the separation needed – “Fear comes creeping, while I sleep/I wake to the sound of the street/Open the drapes but I can’t see/The wreckage gets the best of me.” But that strategy doesn’t work forever – “I feel the changing of the guard/Getting closer to the bone.” Love is one of those sources of trauma, especially repeated failure to find it. “Crime of the Heart” features a narrator who continues to shoot darts at romance (and keeps missing) – “Starting over, never getting closer.” Again, Nail makes the case for moving on – “Forgive yourself, forgive yourself.” More mistakes, after all, equal more opportunities to learn and grow.
Musically, Behind the Headlights takes its cues from the texture of guitars that Nail lays down (he plays nearly all of them on the album, along with some mandolin). The title track bounces a synth line off Nail’s understated electric playing, while “Higher Ground” is based around a warm, acoustic melody. Departing a bit from this approach is “Something More,” which reaches back to the 80s with synth and beats while Nail sings of reluctantly accepting change – “Gonna lay down my guard/So I can take back my life.”
The standout track on Behind the Headlights is the slow-building “We Are One.” Leading with acoustic guitar, Nail pushes past loneliness – “Emptiness, alive/Follows where I roam.” The background becomes more electric as the singer strives toward something bigger – “When we speak beyond our dreams/Finally we are one.” In album capper “Endless Plain,” which blends Nail’s acoustic and electric work, he acknowledges that some facets of life are unavoidable – “No one decides when they are born/Time has a way of taking us home” – but the choices made in between those inevitable points are what dictates an individual’s short path through life – “The arrows of consciousness/After the photographs fade.” It’s that courage to keep moving that makes life meaningful, even on the rainy days.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “We Are One” – on an album full of perfectly balanced guitar pieces, this is the best of the bunch.
Behind The Headlights was produced by Jeremy Nail and Pat Manske, recorded and mixed by Manske and mastered by Joe Gastwirt. All songs were written by Nail. Additional musicians on the album include Manske (drums, percussion, loops), Bukka Allen (keyboards, Hammond B3 organ, piano, synthesizer), Gregg White (upright bass, electric bass, baritone guitar), Shannon McNally (background vocals), Stephen Barber (string arrangements), Leigh Mahoney (violin, viola), Sara Nelson (cello) and Kurt Moede (French horn).
Behind the Headlights will be available to stream on August 26. Check Jeremy Nail’s Linktree and Instagram for more information: