Review: Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy

Twin Fantasy is not at all a mature project. In fact, I would go as far to say it’s been one of the most boldly immature records of its realm since its initial release back in 2011. This isn’t necessarily because of frontman Will Toledo’s lyricism or the amount of instrumental technicality on display. If it were, you would obviously be reading an entirely different review; Toledo’s lyrics are actually quite undoubtedly some of the most level-headed and mature comparatively in music today. So why is it that I make this point? Toledo not only uses his creative ability to its own incredible potential, but he has also managed to capture and perfect his own musical portrayal of his former youthfully anxiety-ridden self, also managing to incorporate structurally bewildering instrumentation into his already pre-established clever, harmoniously inclined vocal work.

From front to back, there is not a single moment that wastes your time, as everything connects itself to the listener in this giant web of bright teenage emotions, all from sexual identity, drug experimentation, the effects of drug abuse, and just Toledo generally coming into his existential own, as we all sort of do once or more during our teenage years. While it’s not entirely lovely, or even completely organized, neither are Toledo nor us. Twin Fantasy vividly details his life experiences in a way that warms your heart yet sends you chills down the lining of your bones at the same moment. The way he interweaves all of these different tales through his various teenage experiences makes Twin Fantasy easily one of the most life-like depictions of teen angst, depicting how us as youth perceive and act with such bombastic and borderline melodramatic attention to detail.

The instrumentation is no less bombastic than the near unforeseeable and genuinely exemplary lyrical content. While Car Seat Headrest is the brainchild of Will Toledo, the project is also now a full band signed to Matador Records with a substantially increased budget and thus a larger scope of sound. The production is clearer but not pristine, giving it more of a realistic — but not overbearing — take on today’s timely indie rock in the vein of Remo Drive or Hippo Campus. These influences tie into Toledo’s singer-songwriter sensibilities that tend to act more personal and introspective — think Julien Baker or Phoebe Bridgers. Of course, Toledo takes these ideas and simplistic tendencies from his contemporaries and expands them into musical pieces that defy traditional structures and pop paradigms in almost every way. Each song (save for the two minute yet nevertheless impactful “Stop Smoking” interlude) reaches over the 4-5 minute mark, with some pieces easily clocking in past ten minutes. Every single verse and refrain from the opening seconds of “My Boy” to the intro’s reprise in “Beach Life in Death” to the final closing monologue of “These Boys” keeps you entranced in not only the album itself, but everything around you. The melding of influences and style here only goes to accentuate the slight narrative at hand with Twin Fantasy, its bright portrayals of various forms of adolescence.

But it’s not necessarily even through Toledo’s emotions all laid out bare for everyone to see on this newly reimagined Twin Fantasy that everything has been made so breathtakingly cold; of course, all music is interpreted by the listener, but there’s a passive bitterness to the tale, with every cry as the album progresses ringing louder and louder in the hard times we try to confide in. Whether it be those nights we tried to come out to our friends on Skype or those times we got together with neighborhood kids to down Four Lokos and shoot the shit until the morning came, it was all there in the distance. Granted, shit was never shot, and it left every discussion throughout those years hollow and empty, but there’s a foreign yet captivating familiarity within the lines of every song here that makes it all feel a bit better. Like there’ll always be a subtle alleviation no matter the source of the pain. Growing up is painful and overtly lame; your friends won’t love you the same, your family will think different of you, and you’ll be barely able to look yourself in the mirror. Will Toledo won’t stand to say it again, but at least at the end of the day we’ll still be here, shooting shit or pissing silence.

when i come back you’ll still be here.”
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