Car Seat Headrest
Matador Records · February 16, 2018
In 2011 Will Toledo released Twin Fantasy, the lo-fi epic that recorded on a cheap laptop in his dorm and van that propelled Car Seat Headrest into the indie spotlight. Seven years later, after achieving universal acclaim, he has decided to enter the studio and re-record his precious debut with the help of his band mates and studio team. The re-imagined Twin Fantasy, like its original counterpart, is a triumphant indie rock record that offers a deep and personal glimpse into the mind of Will Toledo.
First off, it needs to be said that this is a polarizing record. Many diehard fans of the original Twin Fantasy have accused Toledo of stripping the record of its heart and grit. Perhaps to some extent they’re right; there is a considerably noticeable difference in emotional intensity between the two versions. However, the fact doesn’t change that the ten songs on Twin Fantasy are masterfully written anthems about heartbreak, depression, and coming-of-age. In some ways, the updated version is a departure from the original, but that’s not to say it’s without its place and strengths.
Twin Fantasy kicks off with ‘My Boy (Twin Fantasy),’ a track that immediately sounds like a watered down version of the original, which featured thundering reverb soaked drums. Fans’ worst suspicions may be coming true, but then, it happens. About halfway through, the track explodes with huge drums, distorted guitar layers, and emotive vocals that cut through like a knife. ‘My Boy’ is a spectacular and anthemic opener that will reel in fans old and new alike.
Track two, the thirteen-minute epic ‘Beach Life-In-Death,’ unfolds like Toledo reading out confessional entries of an old diary. The song is highly unconventional, featuring various loosely connected instrumental sections without a real chorus to be found. The song is lyrically intriguing and full of melodies that make one want to revisit. ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ is juxtaposed by the next track, the one-minute-long acoustic ballad ‘Stop Smoking (We Love You).’ The song is very repetitive, as the only lyrics are “Stop smoking/We love you” and later “and we don’t want you to die/we don’t want you to die.” The A-side of the album closes out with the single “Nervous Young Inhumans,” which is certainly a highlight of the album with its grooving bass and synth lead.
The first side of the record is wonderful, but the last four tracks on Twin Fantasy are where it really shines. ‘Cute Thing’ is arguably the album’s catchiest song with its slick guitar moves and exhilarating chorus, and will no doubt be added to the band’s live repertoire. The track reaches anthem level heights and compares to songs off Car Seat Headrest’s last album, Teens of Denial, like ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ and ‘Fill in the Blank.’ The next song, ‘High to Death’ builds to crushing emotional heights over its seven and a half minute runtime. The penultimate track ‘Famous Prophets (Stars)’ is the longest song on the album at sixteen minutes divided into three parts, the last of which is a six-minute, heartbreaking piano ballad that builds until the song collapses in on itself and ends. It may be extensive, but every second is worth listening to.
The finale track, aptly titled ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys),’ flawlessly concludes the record, featuring Toledo at his most vulnerable as he croons on the verge of tears into the microphone. Many were quick to question Toledo about remaking Twin Fantasy, wondering, “why do it?” It is the album’s final moment that the answer becomes clear: These songs still deeply resonate with him.
Ultimately, the rebooted Twin Fantasy is a triumphant journey of a record. It is the story of love lost, but not forgotten. It is the story of a young man confronting his sexuality and depression. Overall, it is the universal story of simply coming to terms with growing up. On this record, audiences will get inside the head of one of the 21st century’s most talented musical visionaries. Do not sleep on this album, because it’s without question a thrilling contender for the best of the year.