Car Seat Headrest illustrates the band’s excellence in “Twin Fantasy”

The re-release of their 2011 album is precisely what the band needs to continue its success


Car Seat Headrest's re-release of "Twin Fantasy" is the perfect revitalization for the band.

Courtesy Flickr

Ten songs, an hour and 11 minutes of playtime and an unbelievable variety of emotion, wit and musical talent. That’s what Car Seat Headrest has given us in their newest record, “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).’’ A re-release from Will Toledo’s 2011 solo project with the same title — recently changed to “Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)” after the 2018 version was released — their new reboot matches its predecessor’s excellent tone and passion while topping on invigorating production value and a newfound innovation. Some of these innovations include spoken-word samples at ends of tracks, reworked melodies and clearer vocals. The band indicates its willingness to stand out from the crowd and try new things.

Without question, the record’s most appreciable feature is Toledo’s ability as a songwriter. It’s quite uncommon for an album to make a listener want to smile, cry and laugh all at the same time, but Car Seat Headrest manages to do it perfectly. This is mostly due to Toledo being arguably the greatest songwriter of his generation. His story is incredibly vulnerable and personal. Whereas his 2011 project illustrated tons of bitterness and pain, this album comes soaring in with a newfound wisdom and confidence, completely replacing heartbreak and malice with reflection and forgiveness. The lyrics are so impactful in retrospect that even the longest of tracks — of which two exceed 13 minutes — show prowess. Some of the shorter songs have repetitive lines that remain riveting and artistic. Hearing Toledo's longing lyrics with such clarity enables the listener to appreciate the narrative behind the emotion that “Mirror to Mirror” so perfectly conveyed.

Sonically, the band fills many of the gaps left unfinished from the 2011 version. Car Seat Headrest was very much a band that functioned on a lo-fi style until the 2016 release of “Teens of Denial.” In their newest release, the band performs an even more mature version of this sound. Though this lower-quality sound is certainly appreciable and has garnered a great amount of the band’s fanbase, the distorted guitars and DIY garage-rock themes are still very evident but have a certain precision that comes with a sufficient amount of studio time. While “Mirror to Mirror” sometimes felt a bit incomplete — some of the songs felt like fillers for more exciting tracks — “Face to Face” meshes impeccably better. Looking at tracks like “Beach Life-in-Death” and “Cute Thing,” the band shows such coordination and attention to detail in the actual music that Toledo’s cleverness is clearly illustrated. On the surface level, the album may seem to have the topic of teenage issues with sexuality, relationships and angst, but it feels even more like a complete exposure of Toledo’s deepest and most sincere emotions.

After Toledo and crew first signed to Matador Records to release 2016’s “Teens of Style," he also agreed to revisit two previous albums, those being 2016’s “Teens of Denial” and, of course, “Twin Fantasy.” When asked about how he would go about re-releasing “Twin Fantasy,” Toledo stated his thought process.

“When I’m working on something and start thinking “this is s**t,” I just try to figure out a way to make it not shit,” Toledo said in an interview. “You can make any work of art good or bad, regardless of what the boundaries are, if you look at it carefully and proceed in the right direction.”

While it’s hard to call the original version “s**t,” it’s not an exaggeration to say that every track on the reboot feels vastly improved. It’s hard to pick a favorite song — whether it’s “Stop Smoking (We Love You)” with its simple acoustic ensemble or the grandiose “Famous Prophets (Stars),” the same listening value can be found.

Looking at the band from a broader perspective, there’s no question that they can easily become one of the greats of our generation. Car Seat Headrest already proved themselves after their 2016 release “Teens of Denial,” but “Face to Face” only continues to prove how much potential and promise they have. With a brilliant songwriter accompanied by three other excellent rockers, Car Seat Headrest have made an astonishing record that will be remembered for a very long time.

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