Is there a more suburban or small-town sentiment than the wonder of the shopping mall? At the close of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the magnetic nine-tune debut from Chapel Hill songwriting vehicle The Human Eyes, Thomas Costello posits that there isn't, by linking the rows of stores and services to the daunting bloom of adulthood. Above an acoustic traipse and an electric moan, he wanders into the parking lot only to be greeted by a doomsday huckster: "Nothing is free but your anger and colds." Despite the admonition, Costello eventually finds himself inside, trying on new shoes that don't fit and turning mannequins into surrogates for his misguided come-ons. Rejection becomes the baseline.
Indeed, Guiding Eyes for the Blind serves as a field guide of sorts for managing maturity—its requisite losses and responsibilities, upsets and errors—and seeking out unexpected redemption within life's inevitable troubles. "I stand in line pretending I'm not about to lose my mind," Costello offers during the inescapable opener, assured in the fact that sometimes that's the best life gets. Above the Galaxie 500 thrum of "Born to Die," Costello discovers freedom in his own mortality, ignoring the prospect of senescence for the pulse of the moment. That fallibility also fuels Costello's sense of reckoning here; he's looking to right past wrongs, whether that means pissing out his demons in a "truck stop sink" so he can be better for someone or admitting his tendency to ruin situations he'd held sacred. "If the past would unlock with a key, if I used it on your door, would you still remember me?" he moans, apologizing for misdeeds with a metaphorical inquiry.
For Costello, Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a distillation of lessons learned and now transmitted. "Another World," for instance, shows his impatience with his own age, dreaming of a video-game reality where his past mistakes disappear in a wash of new love; sprung from a Cure bass line and shot through a Smiths jangle, the sound reiterates that the sentiment is an old one, unlikely to change for the young wishers and dreamers who might follow the trail of this tape. The buoyant "It's Not the Same Without You" tags graying romantic regret with adolescent nostalgia and momentary unease. Costello searches for his former happiness in the places they used to visit and, at night, when he closes his eyes. In the chorus, he assumes the bravado of a confidence man, pleading with the gusto of David Byrne and Bono that life used to be better—and that just maybe it can be again.