Car Seat Headrest is a pretty stupid name for a band, but there’s a story behind it that makes more sense.  They actually started not as a band, but the work of a single artist, Will Toledo.  Toledo hails from Virginia, and first started recording music on his computer with the built in mic and music software that was included on it.  His recording techniques did grow in sophistication over time, but he was always seeking simple solutions to his recording problems.  When he discovered he preferred recording vocals in his car rather than in his home, that’s where he got the name that he currently records under.  6 years ago Toledo released his first album as Car Seat Headrest, titled “1”.  He then proceeded to release “2”, “3” and “4” within the next few months.  While he made them available on his online store, he added a warning that they were “not very good”.  He then released a compilation of b-sides and random songs that he described as pretty awful, but in 2011 he released an album without any disclaimers about how bad the music was.  He released a second album later that year that gained some critical buzz.  He then released two more albums in 2012 and another in 2013.  At this point, Toledo decided he needed to get out of Virginia, so he packed up and headed to Seattle.  This led to the release of “How To Leave Town” in 2014 which got him even more buzz.  This led him to sign with Matador Records, who released “Teens of Style” in Oct. ’15.  This brings us to May ’16 where Car Seat Headrest has released the new album “Teens of Denial”.  This is also the first album that Toledo recorded with other musicians (on drums and bass) in a professional studio.  While I’ve heard of Car Seat Headrest and read glowing accolades from enthusiasts, I’ve never listened to any of his work until this new album.  Toledo’s sound is a mix of lo-fi noises with pretty clear and innovative production.  He also displays a pretty wide-range of fairly experimental songwriting styles.  This makes for a pretty interesting and sprawling listen, but if you want to hear something that doesn’t sound mainstream, this would fit the bill.  Oh yeah, it’s also a concept album based on a kid named Joe who’s dealing with a host of issues and dilemmas about late adolescence and early adulthood.  The new album gained a little additional publicity when copies of it had to be pulled at the last minute when Ric Ocasek declined permission to use a few bars of The Cars “Just What I Needed” on “Just What I Needed/Not What I Needed”.  All the initial vinyl and cd copies had to be destroyed and Toledo reworked the song and titled it “Not What I Needed”.  Below are a few tracks to check out if you’re curious to hear what Car Seat Headrest is bringing to the table.
“Destroyed By Hippie Powers” – This may be the most rocking song on the entire album, so of course I was immediately drawn to it.  Loud guitars, a locked in rhythm section and some good hooks, what’s not to like?  I hear a little bit of Pavement in this track (and Weezer), but also a handful of other influences.  I especially love the part where the sound is cranked up even louder near the end (plus there’s cowbell). – (all I could find was an earlier version of this track performed live at Ground Zero 18 months prior to the album being released, not quite as good as the album version)
“Fill in the Blank” – More solid guitars ringing out on this song, which kicks off the new album.  The chorus is cool with just the right amount of sloppiness to give it a live and unrehearsed feel, with plenty of stops/starts.  This song brings in some more influences – yes, I can hear a little bit of the Strokes in there. 

“Vincent” – This shows off a little more of an experimental side of Car Seat Headrest’s songwriting.  This video is the edited version of the song, which takes out some stuff in the beginning that isn’t important in the song structure (album version is 7:30 long).  Toledo demonstrates some interesting vocal styles, throwing words out of his mouth at some parts on this song.  This is a track that may not register that hard when you first hear it, but then after you’ve heard it a few times it has suddenly left a very big imprint on your brain.  I heard this track come on the radio on a Sirius XM “alternative” alternative channel and immediately recognized that I knew the song, but wasn’t sure who the artist was until I looked at the name.  Then it all came together in a burst of realization.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *