After a brush with success, Will Toledo's indie-pop project embraces a slicker and more focused approach. Info/tix
Hailing from Seattle, Will Toledo's Car Seat Headrest delivers sensitive troubadour-rock for a new age of impressionable emos. Toledo's trajectory isn't unlike that of The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle—the crusty, lo-fi intimacy of Car Seat Headrest's early records brought on a cult following, which led to a deal with Matador Records in 2015, the assembly of a full band, and slicker recordings. Also, we'd be remiss not to mention that Toledo recently made headlines for exchanging covers with '90s bowling-shirt rockers Smash Mouth.
Surprisingly, a prime example of Toledo's evolution arrived earlier this year in a re-recorded version of 2011's Twin Fantasy, which takes Toledo's crude source material from the original release and pushes it into focus with tasteful production. Sure, some of the raw urgency of the original gets lost in this revamped context, but it still works. One of the album's highlights arrives in "High To Death," which finds Toledo crooning, "I wish I was sober / I can't get up off the ground" over desolate, jangling chords. The mood provided by Toledo's atmospheric reverse-guitar lines and use of icy reverb ties the tune together in a really satisfying way. "Beach Life-In-Death" builds cleverly and beautifully underneath Toledo's hushed exploration of an inner monologue before exploding into a shapeshifting series of sonic peaks and valleys—and drummer Andrew Katz's agile and dynamic grooves help the song build to its power-pop apex. —Joel Shanahan