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Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy

Twin Fantasy Album Cover

On November 2, 2011, an 19 year-old Will Toledo released his sixth studio album in just over 18 months under the moniker Car Seat Headrest. With access to GarageBand, a few instruments, and a laptop microphone, he recorded the album in his car with no one to listen except for himself and his headrest. He centered his work around his then ongoing relationship with another man and named it Twin Fantasy. Only months later, this album caused a series of explosions across internet platforms like Reddit and Bandcamp, all hailing the recording as a lo-fi indie rock masterpiece and the artist as a songwriting wunderkind. Now, almost seven years later, after getting picked up by Matador Records and attaining access to any and all musical equipment imaginable, 26 year-old Will Toledo has re-released Twin Fantasy with a sound vastly more fulfilled and an emotionality that is somehow even more engaging.

The flow of this album, the way each song toys with the musical ideas and themes of the songs before them, is never for a second broken and immerses the listener indefinitely. The way the three part “Beach Life-in-Death” (which may be one of the best composed works of music of this decade) transitions into the hilariously placed “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” is only made better by “Cute Thing”’s “Let me light your cigarette” and “High to Death”’s “Keep smoking, I love you.” “Bodys” is a bold and flirtatious statement of attraction to the picture of the unnamed lover he has painted for listeners, and it is immediately followed by “Cute Thing”’s “I got so f*****g romantic I apologize.” Memorable riffs and melodies are taken from the earlier songs and cast into new form by the rest of the album. When listening to the original recording, I felt so close to Will’s mind that I swore I could catch the echoes bouncing off of his car door and the vaguely dingy smell of his driver’s seat.

Each track features the music, its lyrics, and its emotional attachment in blissful polyamory. One of the many ideas explored by “Beach Life-In-Death” is the conflicting feeling of desiring camaraderie while at the same time being disgusted by the world: “We said we hated humans. We wanted to be humans. Get more groceries, get eaten.” As “Sober to Death” descends in its final minutes to a cathartic repetition of “Don’t worry, you and me won’t be alone no more,” it is hard to think of something other than the tender and unified embrace portrayed by the album art. Will’s music captures his teenage anxiety and projects it in a way that is as personal and endearing as it is eloquent and relatable. This is an album that no 19 year-old should have the emotional intelligence, the vision, or the artistic experience to make, but it is an album that only a 19 year-old could make.

Will never saw the original Twin Fantasy as a finished project, and it comes as no surprise that he would want to recreate it after seven more years of experience as an artist and especially after being offered the world by Matador Records and his since-accrued band members. Originally, Will had to fill the empty space of the album with clever vocal arrangements and sound effects. With this re-release, while most of those are gone, each song is still more fully realized. The most changed song is “Famous Prophets (Stars),” which is a full six minutes longer than the original. It builds upon itself, and it crashes in euphoria with the mantra, “The ocean washed over your grave. The ocean washed open your grave.” Our feelings, no matter how hidden, will always be opened and manifested in some way. So it goes with the endless repertoire of lyrical and musical themes that unearth themselves throughout this album.

I will now admit my bias: the original release is one of my favorite albums of all time. The recursive and amorphous nature of the album, its infectious choruses, and its mind-churning lyricism all represent an artist that is more generally experienced than anyone ever should be. This re-release is a triumphant dialogue between Will and his young mind, and I hope that it will be later recognized as one of the most impressive albums of this decade. 9.5/10

PC: Ali Almehelm / Flickr

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