Style: Indie Rock
“The ocean washed open your grave.” This poignant lyric appears quite a few times throughout the course of this album. While the lyric serves it’s purpose well in the songwriting of this album, I feel it’s also very fitting to the overall idea and execution of this album. So, today, we are taking a look at the newly reworked Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest. Car Seat Headrest is a project started by Will Toledo in 2010. After the band’s creation, the band quickly released a series of very raw lo-fi recorded albums on their bandcamp subsite. The band flew under the radar a bit until 2011, until it released the original Twin Fantasy. After this album’s release the band began to garner a bit of a fan following on the internet. Eventually in 2015, the band had signed to indie label Matador Records. On this label the band previously released two albums titled Teens of Style and Teens of Denial. The latter received critical acclaim, and further thrust Car Seat Headrest into the indie rock spotlight. The albums featured hi-fi re-imaginings of previous songs recorded by the band during their previous time on bandcamp. Riding the wave of popularity produced by Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest set their sights on another previous project. This time they intended to completely rework the 2011 version of Twin Fantasy..
Going into this album, I had wondered how much of an effect the production change would have on the overall sound of this album. Almost instantly, the benefits of the increased production level are immediately noticeable compared to the original. The new production definitely allows for more focus to be placed on the different sounds and accompanying instruments that are present on each track. I think this is most evident in the song “Bodys,” which features some electronic elements as well as a very distinct drum kit loop. The new production definitely allows for better layering of all of the instrumental elements this album provides. I think this also helps a lot of the noisy indie rock style guitar riffs that are constantly used throughout the album. The added clarity to these riffs definitely helped build a more dynamic sound to the album. Famous Prophets is another example of where I believe the production dramatically helps the overall song. While this song is certainly lengthy, the clean production and different elements help keep me interested throughout, and the culminating ending with a swirl of different instruments and repeated vocals were definitely the highlight of the song in my opinion. Another thing that certainly benefits due to the increased production are Will’s vocals. The vocals help to create some distinct moments throughout songs, and I feel his singing adds another unique layer to the songs as well. The opening song highlights these points quite clearly in my opinion. The song starts with a focus on Will’s vocals with an accompanying guitar in the background. This continues for a little while, until the song starts to build and build with noisier guitars and louder vocals. Will’s vocal performance at the beginning of the song definitely allows for these tense and climatic moments in each song to develop fully.
Outside of the production, another aspect of this album that I was thoroughly impressed with was Will’s lyricism. On this album, he continues to grow as a songwriter, and it most certainly helps with the overall feel and theme of this album. Some themes that I found were present in the album included loneliness, depression, unrequited love, burying your emotions until they resurface, relationship issues, and a multitude of various topics artists tend to write about frequently. However, while some of these themes can come off as immature sometimes, Toledo’s lyrics speak about them in unique ways, and the lyrics feel very well developed within the context of the song. I loved the callbacks to past songs that are sprinkled in every song on this album, and the repeated prominent lines that help drive the overall emotion of the songs. In regards to the overall theme of the album, the most prominent line that stands out in my mind on this album is, “The Ocean Washed Open Your Grave.” I feel that the lyric represents Will reopening old thoughts or ideas that he had buried. This idea is basically what this album was set out to do, reopen an old idea and give it new purpose.This theme is most obvious on the last song of the album. The lyrics and almost funeral like opening piano part are Will basically saying we can look back on this album fondly, but he is finally burying this point in his life. He is moving on to other musical directions, and all the effort, negative emotions, and time he spent on this album are just lyrics in a song now. The grave was reopened, but it is now closed, and the future looks bright for Car Seat Headrest.
While the entire album as a whole sounds incredible, there were a only a few points that I had disliked. The added spoken dialogue to the end of Nervous Young Inhumans and High To Death were both parts I could do without. In Nervous Young Inhumans case, it just feels like filler to me. The song is about five and a half minutes long, yet two and a half minutes are this monologue by Will. I found the opening of the song to be interesting, and don’t necessarily dislike it as a whole, but I could definitely do without the ending part. On High to Death the song overall is very spacey, and literally feels like I’m sitting in my bed after a night of drinking while watching the room spin around me as listen to music or think to myself. However, at the end of the song a phone call from a random girl talking about her art project is present. I can see how the call can relate to themes in the album, but yet again in my opinion the song could do without this part.
Some notable highlights for me on this album included the songs My Boy (Twin Fantasy), Beach Life-in-Death, Stop Smoking (We Love You), Sober to Death, Bodys, Cute thing, and Twin Fantasy (Those Boys).
Cute Thing being a lead single off of this album, I loved the concept of the song about becoming a rock god if only he had Frank Ocean’s voice and James Brown’s stage presence. I thought the in your face and loud chorus went well with mirroring a rockstar’s chaotic life of partying until they end in one loud final explosion. Speaking of recognizable choruses, Sober To death most certainly is the best example of this. The song like many others takes some time to build, and it features an acoustic guitar in the background at the start. The chorus and instrumentation that accompanies it are both very catchy and memorable. The song inevitable ends in a teeter totter of the louder dynamics of the song going against the acoustic guitar. The sound of the song does well to mimic the theme of a chaotic relationship. The chaotic relationship being loud and aggressive at times as opposed to the calm of making up. Beach Life-In-Death was another interesting moment for me during my listen. The song basically features three separate parts, each part is unique, but all hold the same theme throughout. The song definitely creates a lot of interesting and memorable moments, and provides a lot of lines that are used in callbacks later on in the album. The ending and opening songs I have touched upon briefly already, but I feel they both serve their purpose well. My Boys is a great start to the album, and helps to lay the foundation for what you’re to expect in regards to the quality and thematics of the album. Twin Fantasy is a strong and memorable end to the album, and does well to tie the theme together. Finally, even the short and simple Stop Smoking served it’s purpose as well. It was a nice short and simple song, almost like a palette cleanser, that followed directly after the complex and lengthy Beach Life-In-Death. The song only featured Will’s voice, an acoustic guitar, and a few lyrics. It was a nice break in the album, but the emotion of Will’s voice made it enjoyable as a whole. There were many moments I enjoyed throughout this album, and I can definitely see this album staying in my rotation for a while.
Overall, the noisy guitar riffs and lyricism that are present on this album feel very at home in an indie rock song, and I could definitely hear elements of the genre as a whole throughout. While it does well to stay true to it’s roots, the album still finds a way to feel unique and personal in it’s own regards. Will’s singing voice and lyrics, and the instrumentation that compliments them on this album are both sonically impressive and enjoyable. This album definitely feels complete after the revisitation, and the re-imagined songs definitely create a a well structured and coherent album. I give this album an 8.5/10 rating, and if you haven’t already I suggest you give this new album a listen.
Finally, just wanted to say thank you for reading this all the way through if you made it to this point. This is just my overall opinion on the album based on how the album hits my ear after a few listens. Please feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with my overall score!