Release Date: May 20, 2016
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Thereâ€™s nothing better than discovering an incredible album by an exciting new artist, usually after sifting through plenty of garbage and recycled materials. Car Seat Headrestâ€™s Teens of Denial is that diamond in the rough.Car Seat Headrest is, for all intents and purposes, Will Toledo. Over the past six years, Toledo has released a number of bandcamp albums culminating in last yearâ€™s Teens of Style on Matador.
My favorite music seems to make me cry for some reason or another. Not all the time, of course, but here and there when my life circumstances or environment combines perfectly with the songs to provoke that kind of emotional response. Sometimes, as with Radiohead or The National, the tears are brought on because the music is just so damned sad. Other times, the waterworks are brought on by nostalgia, a la Big Star’s “Thirteen,” or sometimes even by the silly joyfulness of the riffs in songs like “Dance the Night Away.” But my favorite reason for tearing up to music is when the combination of instrumentation and lyricism is just so perfect that it feels brought on more by awe and reverence than anything else.
Will Toledo likes to make fun of his own contempt. The humor is dry and sober, disguised with a self-trumpeting seriousness that also exposes his impotence. Some of it is darned brilliant. “I didn’t want you to hear that shake in my voice/ my pain is my own,” Toledo quivers in one of Teens of Denial’s most anthemic moments, giving way to a disillusionment that stifles his own conviction.
Sometimes, drugs are no fun. The rad night you imagined, watching 2001: A Space Odyssey and brushing against the outer boundaries of your consciousness, becomes a six-hour hell of wondering Did I leave the oven on? or Did I look weird when I said that thing to that one person or Do I just think I looked weird but was I probably not that weird despite the person obviously thinking I was? and so on. But I’ve never heard someone sum it up as succinctly as Will Toledo does: “Last Friday, I took acid and mushrooms/I did not transcend, I felt like a walking piece of shit/in a stupid-looking jacket.
Will Toledo, the young creator of Car Seat Headrest, used to prefer anonymity, releasing 11 self-recorded albums on Bandcamp without pretense or assignation of image. His identification with slacker youth trying to find something meaningful to grab onto has gradually made him one of their emissaries. So, with a confidence garnered from their endorsement, not to mention an ever-widening appeal, Toledo took his game up a few notches to announce himself.
Between 2010 and 2014, 23-year-old Will Toledo released 13 records of angsty lo-fi indie rock, eventually being picked up by respected indie Matador. After last year’s “best of” compilation Teens Of Style comes his full-length recorded in a proper studio with a full backing band. Evolving beyond his bedroom results in some of his best work to date – a supremely confident album that throws its emotions blithely in your face.
On "The Battle of the Costa Concordia," Will Toledo borrows verses from British pop singer Dido (her 2003 hit "White Flag") to frame his angst, just like another wordy white boy before him. On "Stan," released when Toledo was eight, Eminem fretted over a jilted fan's anger; here, Toledo frets over nearly everything, including an inability to sustain anger. And where Dido sang about bravely going down with her ship, Toledo sputters "I'm not going down with this shit … I give up!" It's a rock anthem for our times, a breathtaking hydrant-flow of words spraying over 11-plus minutes of dirge-to-rant gear-shifting, evidently informed by hip-hop's venting self-examination, Dylan's longer-winded abstractions, and (according to Toledo) Leonard Cohen's relationship post-mortem "Death of a Ladies Man.
If you cranked out 11 homemade albums in just four years, you'd probably want to go big once you had the means to make a for-real long-player for a noted indie label. And though 2016's Teens of Denial isn't Car Seat Headrest's first album for Matador Records, this is the first one founder, frontman, and songwriter Will Toledo built from the ground up for the label. Arriving in 2015, Teens of Style was a re-recorded "best-of" that revisited Toledo's earlier material, but Teens of Denial is a grand-scale 70-minute song cycle about a kid named Joe who is wrestling with the traditional dilemmas of late adolescence and early adulthood.
“I think of indie in much the same way I think of the term ‘guerrilla.’ It’s more than a simple, surface-level reference to your financial backing. I believe it’s a state of mind and a way of life you must bring to your entire pursuit of music.”– Bob Baker from his article “The True Meaning of Indie” “I think ‘indie’ was about romanticizing amateurism in music and media [via ‘blogs’]. But the bands that were actually successful cared about being masters and never really were THAT amateur…Why must we empower people who are trying to convince us that ‘a lo-fi sheen’ is real?”– Carlos Perez (a.k.a.
So, who exactly is Joe; the character Teens of Denial - Car Seat Headrest's 11th, but first ever studio recorded album - is centred around? The official line is that he's the alter ego of Will Toledo (aka Car Seat Headrest) himself; created after Toledo Googled the then provisional album title and found some link bait on recalcitrant youth. Really though, Joe could be any jaded 20-something who has come to the realisation that, all things considered, it's actually a pretty terrifying time to be alive. Like fellow Bandcamp progenitor Frankie Cosmos, Toledo locks his gimlet eye over these crazy days and finds that, for the most part, anxiety often lurks in the minutiae.
Car Seat Headrest: it’s one of those nondescript things that could only become even mildly interesting as a musician’s pseudonym. The musician in question is Will Toledo, whose staggering thirteenth LP – he’s only in his twenties, for goodness sake – his latest record being a statement of intent. Toledo is a true wordsmith and ‘Teens of Denial’ is, above all else, a lyrical treasure trove.
Car Seat Headrest, the indie rock brainchild of Will Toledo, steadily developed from a series of lo-fi tracks recorded in his car as a teenager, but a well-timed signing to Matador Records allowed the project to grow more quickly. Last fall's Teens of Style introduced a full band and proper studio to a selection of the project's best songs to catch up new fans (and get the band acquainted with being a band), and Teens of Denial gives the augmented fan base a collection of new tracks that make great use of the new equipment. Though the means may have changed, the new album bears more stylistic resemblance to Toledo's Bandcamp recordings than Teens of Style, featuring Toledo's old trademarks of songs that exceed the 10-minute mark and an overarching, self-referential narrative.
Pop music doesn’t need to be reassuring, any more than the weather need be sunny. And yet listeners often seek some positive message in even downcast pop music, searching for some aphoristic takeaway: You’ll get through this; these songs make even your sad-sack existence look bearable; it’ll be okay. If you’ve come to Car Seat Headrest’s second LP, Teens of Denial, looking for easy answers, look elsewhere.
Car Seat Headrest initially began as the lo-fi bedroom project of 23-year-old Will Toledo. But after self-releasing 11 DIY albums (the vocals were recorded in his car, hence the name) on Bandcamp, he signed to Matador. His first step was to release Teens of Style, a debut album (more of a compilation) that collected of the best of his early material and re-recorded it for his newfound fanbase.
It’s funny to think just how recently Car Seat Headrest was a fungible musical commodity. The band, previously the sole province of musical director Will Toledo, drew comparisons in a Pitchfork review of Bandcamp Days Revisited compilation Teens of Style to Belle & Sebastian, Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices, and (last but not least) Stephen Malkmus — all in the same sentence. Viewing the outfit as an aggregate of ’90s indie-rock anonymity wouldn’t necessarily have been accurate, but it wouldn’t have been unfair, either — especially because Toledo’s most singular quality, his sarcastic-toast-to-himself vocals, was buried under layers of distortion and reverb, like a first-time karaoke-er unsure of how much he really wants his voice to be heard just yet.
With Teens of Denial marking the 13th album from Car Seat Headrest in just six years, Will Toledo has proven to be the 21st century analogue of one Robert Ellsworth Pollard in terms of prolificacy. Pollard’s grand ambition of arena rock stardom didn’t materialize in recorded form until Guided By Voices’ 1986 EP, Forever Since Breakfast, was issued with Pollard already approaching 30. Whereas Pollard favored the immediacy afforded by four-track cassette recorders, Toledo, at 23, has embraced today’s digital means of distribution, serving as the poster boy for Bandcamp success after signing with Matador last year.
Bandcamp recordings paved the way for Car Seat Headrest's Will Toledo, the best songwriter in contemporary music. The 23-year-old's Teens of Denial thrums with anxiety, existential wrestling, and endless adolescence in a haze of Nineties skuzz. Hints of Nirvana and Pixies, "1937 State Park" evokes the Breeders specifically, but Toledo's pairing of cerebral lyrics with a wild, propulsive need yields an energy that pushes Teens past mere indie rock.
In some ways, everything there is to know about Teens Of Denial can be found in the video for the record’s centerpiece, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales. ” The clip is deceptively simple: As frontman Will Toledo’s falsetto floats in, we see a road ahead. We’re speeding along in the darkness as passengers, buckled in to this perspective, until just past the halfway point, when the scene abruptly shifts from enveloping blackness to sunshine and a vast ocean.
by Grant Rindner Car Seat Headrest’s newest record is what all good indie rock should aspire to be. It’s intelligent, self-aware, a touch neurotic, and rough enough around the edges to feel completely authentic. Teens of Denial is a long record, but one that has so much personality and insight that you’ll wish there were another dozen tracks tacked on.
There’s the odd blast of standard indie fare such as ‘Vincent’ and ‘1937 State Park’, but in the main ‘Teens Of Denial’ is the work of a precocious talent. Most tracks last over five minutes and the longest comes in at 12. It gives the impression that Toledo is doing what he wants and making the music he wants to hear. You can’t help but love him for it.
Car Seat Headrest—Teens of Denial (Matador)Teens of Denial is a huge step up for 20-something songwriter Will Toledo, the phenom who home recorded 10 full-lengths on Bandcamp before a Matador intern tipped his boss to the guy. 2015’s Teens of Style polished up early material for wider release; it was impressive but not the final word. Just a few months ago, here at Dusted, I called it, “an intoxicating conglomeration of exuberant melody, existential agony and fuzz.
Car Seat Headrest’s latest album Teens of Denial follows up on his last record Teens of Style. Its an interesting album that shows Will Toledo reflecting on his life in Seattle. Billed as his first “studio album” and now with a real band in tow the music shows greater depth over his earlier bandcamp output. Stylistically if you’ve ever found yourself craving to listen to bands like Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel or even Sebadoh then you might dig what this record has to offer.