Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer
After independently releasing nine albums on Bandcamp, musician Will Toledo and his band Car Seat Headrest finally signed to a major record label, Matador Records, in 2015. They have since produced a trilogy of brilliant angst-filled garage rock albums, starting with “Teens of Style” and concluding with the most recent, “Twin Fantasy.” All three albums have a similar style and vibe, with songs being almost interchangeable but still memorable and unique.
Toledo has cultivated an authentic garage essence to his lo-fi indie rock, blending distorted vocals and crunchy guitars with catchy melodies and clever hooks. This sound has taken several years to cultivate, involving a number of lineup changes in Toledo’s band, with his earliest songs recorded solo. Most recently, he added another group to his backing band, the Naked Giants, making Car Seat Headrest a seven-piece outfit.
The music is highly referential, with repeating themes of love and relationships, alternative substances, teenage angst, anxieties, and self-doubt. The referential themes draw the listener in, serving as familiar ground beneath the sonic explorations of the music. Not only are the thematic ideas repeated, but Toledo often repeats lyrics, sometimes whole choruses, in multiple songs. This repetitive nature of the music actually makes it more attractive by producing a consistent sound throughout the numerous albums. Listeners of the trilogy will find themselves singing along with the memorable melodies and layered vocals. With the most recent album, Toledo takes this repetition a step farther, re-recording a whole album that he originally released in 2011. A bold move, to say the least, but one that works. While some may take offense at the idea of this re-recorded album, the new recordings are actually worth a listen, as Car Seat Headrest has fleshed out the original songs in sonically pleasing ways.
“Give me Frank Ocean’s voice and James Browns’ stage presence – I will be your rock god… ” Toledo croons on “Cute Thing,” in an almost desperate plea. Well, he certainly doesn’t have Frank Ocean’s voice (which is a good thing), and it’s highly unlikely he has moves like James Brown (because, let’s be honest, who does?), but Car Seat Headrest has reached “rock god” status with this most recent release. It will continue to grow their online cult following, and they will continue to play sold-out shows. If you like “Twin Fantasy” you will most certainly like the last two albums as well. Car Seat Headrest can be found on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, and Google Play, along with Bandcamp and other streaming services.