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Power-Pop Reveals Its Beating Heart

A great power-pop song offers innumerable rewards: an eternally memorable melody, an adrenaline rush, a way to make a spring day sing. Still, as much as guitars and synthesizers can capture and even cultivate a hormonal rush, beneath the best power-pop beats a sad, bleeding heart.

Recalling the work of Stars, another band that slathers chiming hooks atop deeply conflicted odes to relationships gone sour, Headlights' "It Isn't Easy To Live That Well" conjures minor-key melancholy on its path to pop bliss. Breezy on the surface, the song finds swooning synths, shimmering guitar lines, a twinkling glockenspiel, and an impeccably placed handclap coexisting with Erin Fein's cooing examination of self-delusion: "Is there any use, to tell myself the truth?"

Fein may come around to the side of getting real -- "I don't have a reason to lie, do I?" -- but it's an epiphany that feels like resignation, even amid so much joyful noise.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)