Twin Fantasy (2018)
Car Seat Headrest is the name Will Toledo has been releasing music under since 2010, when it was originally a solo
project. He was known for his prolific output, releasing up to 4 albums in a single year, and gained an underground cult
following online, through Bandcamp - with myself being one of his followers. His attraction lies primarily in his
poetic, introspective lyrics. He talks openly about his struggles with depression, sexuality, social anxiety, and
growing up. Many fans regard his 2011 album, Twin Fantasy, to be his best, and while it is a tough choice for me, I can
definitively say that I love that album. Similarly to writing about Alexisonfire yesterday, Toledo's style is very
lo-fi, raw and emotional, which is what drew me to him (although I would describe his music as lo-fi indie rock,
altogether less violent than Alexisonfire).
In 2015, Toledo signed to Matador Records, and I was.... worried. I am a douchebag - I only like things because other people don't like them, especially musicians. I always catch myself saying "oh, I liked their early albums better than their most recent stuff". Many times in the past I have discovered an indie gem, only for them to be signed to a major record label and tragedy strikes. Their new release loses its lo-fi sheen and sounds overproduced; the band sounds poppier to appeal appeal to the label's wider audience, the lyrics become more vague and less provocative. The Front Bottoms are a great example of this. Their first two commercially released albums both could be in my top 10 favourite albums ever, but then they got signed to Fueled By Ramen, infamous for completely changing the sound of Fall Out Boy when they signed (and in my opinion, causing FOB to stop producing good music) - and listening to their new music is like watering down their old stuff to homeopathic levels.
It seems like it must be a dilemma for artists. On one hand, you want to grow and evolve as a musician, experimenting with new sounds, techniques and styles as you grow as a performer and a human being (unless you are Metallica, in which case you apparently just re-record the same album every few years until 40 have elapsed). Maybe you wrote an album while you were horribly depressed, and your fans loved it and said it was great. But then you get through it, grew as a person, and no longer want to write about those things, so you want to change the whole tone of your music. In some cases, perhaps you physically can't perform songs in your old style, for example Oli Sykes simply can't scream like he did on Bring Me The Horizon's debut "Count Your Blessings", so his vocal style changed over the years, until now he does purely clean vocals (incidentally I think Count Your Blessings is a masterpiece and BMTH's latest record is trash). But as a listener, you become a fan of an artist because of their music and whatever unique qualities it possesses. I loved Fall Out Boy for their early post hardcore sound with contrasting vocals from Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz. I loved The Front Bottoms for Brian Sella's lyrics about being uncomfortable around girls. I loved BMTH for their aggressive deathcore and Sykes'
hair expression of his anger. So when all those bands "evolve" and change all those things
that I loved, it is difficult as a fan to continue to enjoy their new work, because it lacks what I had liked about them
in the first place. So when Toledo signed to Matador, I was scared, and when he announced they had remade my beloved
Twin Fantasy to be released today.... well, I was even more scared. I know the album is his baby, but I loved it too,
and I didn't want him to hurt it.
I listened through the album for the first time this evening, and I have rarely been so happy to be wrong. It's an incredible reworking of the original. The production is naturally higher fidelity from a technical sense, but not by much - if anything it sounds like Will just bought a more expensive drum kit and a nicer amp. The mastering is very similar to the original, to the extent I assume Toledo himself had a hand in it. The content of the songs is largely the same, with only a few small changes in instrumentation, at least one additional distorted guitar solo and a handful of spoken word passages, a calling card of Toledo's. Some of the lyrics have been subtly changed too, often just one word. My interpretation of this is that it both reflects how Toledo has changed since originally releasing Twin Fantasy, and serves as a nod to his fans who loved the first album and still listen to his newer music. The extras give the album more impact - it seems as if Toledo may have been unhappy with the original, and now had a chance to do things again the way he wanted. It's amazing to listen to, and will probably be the soundtrack of my next week. What I think makes it great is that he managed to walk the line - he has grown as an artist, that much you can tell by listening to the two albums, and hopefully he is happy with his own artistic output. But also, it is so obviously a Car Seat Headrest/Will Toledo album. It has everything his fans, myself included, love about his music, in abundance. He hasn't "sold out" or been pressured by a label or grown out of his teen angst - he managed to improve his own masterpiece.