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'Teens of Style' Is Rebirth of Car Seat Headrest's Furtive Journey

Music ReviewSean McHughComment

Is there such thing as an overqualified musician? Does releasing eleven albums without any label backing constitute a titan of recording? What the hell does Car Seat Headrest even mean?

Rhetoric aside, Will Toledo is a millennial marvel - the twenty three year old man behind the automotive-comfort nom de plume Car Seat Headrest has recorded and released eleven albums since 2010. October 30th will mark Toledo’s first album released with a label, Teens of Style. Out on Matador Records, TOS is a refurbishing of some of Toledo’s more prominent tracks from his extensive pre-existing discography.

Perhaps the preeminent bedroom-based producer of the Twenty Teens, Toledo’s work as Car Seat Headrest runs the gamut of musical inspirations. With songs reminiscent of Weezer, Brian Wilson, Daniel Johnston, and Beck, TOS acts as a proper retrospective of Toledo’s growth as a writer and performer. Songs that had once been released under the pretense of personal amusement and catharsis from life in Leesburg, Virginia have been repurposed as a formal introduction of Car Seat Headrest to the indie masses.  

TOS opens with “Sunburned Shirts,” an ambient psych rock track that first appeared on Toledo’s 2013 release My Back Is Killing Me Baby, is retooled as an aloof and apologetic narrative that blows itself up halfway through, becoming a raucous convulsion of surf guitar and filtered vocals.

“The Drum” (My Back Is Killing Me Baby, 2013) ushers in the Matador era of Car Seat Headrest angst, having abandoned his moniker-earning recording practices (recording in the back of his family car) and traded them for full-fledged production that asserts Toledo’s truest feelings of boredom and self-awareness.

Many songs on TOS exhibit Toledo’s distinct perspective of detachment from certain banalities of life, such as “Something Soon” (My Back Is Killing Me Baby, 2013), with its Brian Wilson-esque harmonies that veil indefinite boredom with lines like, “I want to sing this song like I’m dying.” Or “No Passion” in which Toledo remarks on trite millennial discontent, remarking, “Still alive / No perspective / Album is over / Go to bed sober.”

Other songs on TOS offer bleak insight into Toledo’s heightened self-awareness. “Time to Die” (Monomania, 2012) is an offertory of alienation and frustration with the divergence taken early on in others’ lives – “All of my friends are getting married / All my friends are right with God.” The sole new song for TOS, “Bad Role Models, Old Idols Exhumed ("Psst, teenagers / Put your clothes back on"), extends these emotions that Toledo has undoubtedly run into with his increasing acclaim, indicating passive aggressive tendencies like “I’m going to delete you,” as a means of escape.

Toledo’s solitary and honest dissemination of his inner-workings, up to this point, have been undoubtedly impressive, with Teens of Style acting as the punctuating mark on Car Seat Headrest’s furtive journey. In his typically prolific style, Toledo has already announced Car Seat Headrest’s next Matador release Teens of Denial which will feature all new material, but for now, Teens of Style will surely be an introduction and continuation of a budding indie luminary.