This Car Seat Headrest article was written by Jessica Otterwell, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
Car Seat Headrest started out five years ago with just a Bandcamp page and word of mouth. They have released eleven albums of achingly personal Lo-Fi Indie noise, recorded using Windows Media Player, with the family car serving as a vocal booth.
‘Teens of Style’ is the re-recording of some of these older songs, now that Wil Toledo has a deal with Matador Records and an actual band behind him. This still proves quite a surprise as up until last month, all eleven albums were offered on a pay what you like basis on the internet.
Part of the reason Car Seat Headrest stands out is because the music is beautiful, the lyrics are poetic and honest but as a listener, you’re never quite sure where they will go next.
Album opener, ‘Sunburned Shirts’ builds soundscapes of drifting dishevelled beauty, before the pace changes to melodic Guitars and Tambourines. Toledo confesses, “I haven’t looked at the sun for so long, I’d forgotten how much it hurt to” in a wave of wonky Keyboard notes, fading in and out throughout the song. This is real music, for people who don’t fit, who won’t fit. ‘Sunburned Shirts’ offers a waltzing depression on a sunny day. The light is streaming in but Toledo doesn’t care, he’s got the curtains drawn.
‘The Drum’ begins with a Pixies style Guitar riff, it explodes like abandoned hope, “The dream falls down”, “He don’t have shit, he’s learned to live with it”. The melody is one of uplift but it’s fragile respite from isolation. The pictures are painted so vividly throughout the whole album that the listener is brought into this world, a world where Toledo, on ‘Something Soon’, “Stays inside all winter” , and wants to “Kick my Dad in the shins”. He pleads, “Binging on the latest sitcom, I feel guilty every moment that it’s on, can’t talk to my folks, I need something soon”. He’s desperate, he’s begging for a change that is so far a distant dream. As a listener, you are there with him in the stifling confines of his situation. By the end of the track, he is screaming the lyrics in distorted Vocals. Once again though, the music swells, there is a marching Drum beat, a glimmer of a chance appears in the melody.
Lead single, ‘Times to Die’ uncovers the anxieties of being left alone. “All my friends are getting married” admits the Vocals. “We’ve all had better times to die, we’ve all seen better times to die”. The line, “lying in bed while all his friends chant you must have done something wrong”, Is self-loathing and pity at its best. ‘Times to Die’ is a fantastic representation of the versatility of Car Seat Headrest because the song is at once thought provoking and truthful as it is danceable. It will disarm you while you’re dancing with a massive smile on your face. There aren’t many bands that could deliver a near seven minute slice of Lo-Fi Guitar Pop covering love, death, loneliness and religion and do it as well as this.
‘Teens of Style’ is an enthralling, exciting debut from one of the most interesting bands to come from the Lo-Fi Indie scene in years. There are glimpses of everything here, from Belle & Sebastian, Pulp, Pixies and The Vaselines to early Mountain Goats but Car Seat Headrest put a fresh spin on the DIY aesthetic. Toledo is singing for the slackers, the bruised, the underdogs and the overlooked. It’s a crazy, shimmering, beautiful whirl and we should all be very glad he emerged from the family car to take us on this ride.
Teens of Style is released on 30th October Via Matador Records