When I first listened to Car Seat Headrest, I found out two startling facts: front man and creative mind of the band Will Toledo possessed one of the most unique lyrical voices in rock music today and that he had released several albums prior to the release of his 2016 breakout release, Teens of Denial.
Nearly all of the releases first came out on Bandcamp — which, of course, means that the quality of the songs often leaves much to be desired. What little investigating I did into his back catalog left me with little interest in listening to anything beyond his second release with Matador Records.
Thankfully, Toledo and Matador have taken it upon themselves to re-release what is probably his most famous Bandcamp release — 2011’s Twin Fantasy.
Now, it is not unusual for a band to remaster their earlier works when they suddenly gain access to better recording equipment and resources. However, Toledo went even further, completely scrapping the original recordings of the album — which were done in his childhood bedroom — and recording new versions of the tracks from scratch.
Due to this complete rehaul, many of the songs have changed drastically from their original counterparts. For example, “Famous Prophets (Stars)” had an additional six minutes added, bringing the total run time up to 16 minutes.
The result of such changes is that Twin Fantasy has gone from an extremely lo-fi cult recording to a much more refined and punchy album, with instrumentation that better delivers the emotionally crushing message of Toledo’s lyrics.
One reason why Teens of Denial was such an exciting release was its lyrics, which depicted the post-college malaise and depression that plagues many millennials today. Amazing singles such as “Vincent” and “Fill in the Blank” painted a picture of a profoundly bored and depressed young man who is unsure of what to do with his life.
The theme of Twin Fantasy is much more specific to Toledo’s own experience. The songs tell the tale of a teenager befuddled by his own sexuality, and of the even more confusing relationships he embarks on. Most of all, though, this teenager does not want to spend another day alone.
If there was one exciting aspect about Car Seat Headrest’s last release, besides the lyrics, it was the instrumentation which hearkens back to a day when the quality of a rock song was based on the memorability of its guitars.
Twin Fantasy also contains some standout instrumentals, specifically on tracks like “Sober to Death”, with a post-punky opening riff that sounds eerily similar to Echo and the Bunnymen. Such influences have rarely made an appearance on his previous albums. The lyrics are equally as moody, speaking of the volatility of relationships:
“Take your hands of your neck and hold/On to the ghost of my body/You know that good lives make bad stories.”
In typical Will Toledo fashion, many tracks on the album are quite long. One example is the second song, “Beach Life-in-Death”. At 12 minutes long, the song is a myriad of different themes and topics. Making a song this long is a tricky business, as it can become very easy for them to feel bloated and boring. Toledo never reaches any level of boredom, not even for a second.
The ideology that has come to define Car Seat Headrest (depression, loneliness, awkward insecurity, etc.) are all here. One particular line cuts deep, in which Toledo explains why depression should be called anti-depression “because it’s not the sadness that hurts you, it’s the brain’s reaction against it.”
However, do not let the sensitive subjects of the lyrics convince you that this is not a fun record. Just listen to either “Bodys” or “Nervous Young Inhumans” to see what I mean. The former is full of driving guitars and swooning background vocals that give it a surprisingly dancey feel. Of course, Toledo’s distinctive brooding still manages to seep through groovy atmosphere.
Millennials often get a lot of flak for supposedly being lazy, entitled and noncommittal. This is why Car Seat Headrest’s perspective is so refreshing. It provides the one thing that the people writing the aforementioned articles always seem to leave out — the millennial perspective. Car Seat Headrest does not seem to deny the allegations, but rather provides justified explanations for these critiques.
However, even if you are not a millennial, the themes described in Twin Fantasy transcend generations. Everyone has felt heartbreak, loneliness and confusion at some point in their lives. Therefore, everyone can relate to this music.
Kyle Land is a news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.