(Photo Credit - Carlos Cruz)
Advance Review - Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open (May 1, 2020) via Matador
Making A Door Less Open is the fourth album Car Seat Headrest has released in five years while signed to Matador Records, and the kicker is they’ve been working on it the entire time. From January 2015 to December 2019 the band has been setting aside and refining their strangest, bravest tracks, passing ideas around the recording studio and personal living rooms, and it was absolutely worth the time and consideration. Front man Will Toledo intended for each song on the album to carry its own individual energy. The idea is a break from the norm of listening to entire albums but rather finding specific songs that spark a feeling or stick in your head. But creating an album of songs that are meant to stand alone in a way makes MADLO a concept album, right? Concept album or not, MADLO is definitely an album for those of us that consume music at a rapid, unmatchable pace and are constantly hunting for more. With songs ranging in tempo and bending genres, and lyrics that go from nonsensical to poetry in the blink of an eye, be prepared to update a bunch of your playlists. Toledo also recently debuted his on-stage persona “trait,” donning a gasmask with LED eyes as a tactic to battle his stage fright and to remind himself and his fans that music should be fun and entertaining. The character is also a key element in a side project between Toledo and drummer Andrew Katz called “1 Trait Danger.”
Music is malleable, and new genres are born every day. My roommate and I love to think up new ways to describe what we’re listening to (she’s much better at it than I am), and that was absolutely the idea behind MADLO. In a press release for Matador Records, Toledo (as trait) describes the sound as “elements of EDM, hip hop, futurism, doo-wop, soul, and of course rock and roll.” Katz brought his knowledge of EDM into the already chaotic mix of sounds that were the core of Car Seat Headrest’s previous three (*cough* 11...) albums. Each song could belong to a different group if it weren’t for Toledo’s signature baritone tying them all together.
The band released four singles off the album between announcing it on February 26th 2020 and the upcoming release date of May 1st. “Hollywood” was the second single released and remains one of my favorite songs from the album. I think the lyrics really capture the distress and restlessness of a key generation that is painfully tuned into society and the world and is growing bored with the ways they distract themselves from it all. I’ve never had a lyric hurt my feelings like “Because everyone’s an artist but no one has the time.” The lyrics are delivered in an unpredictable spoken word form with an echoing commentary and the very rock and roll guitar gives me big Nada Surf vibes (but mostly just that one song).
“Famous” is another song I’m looking forward to sharing with my friends. The quirky instrument and vocal distortion showcase a huge break from my previous favorites by the band like “Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales” and “Something Soon.” The heavily electronic sound is almost a head nod to what Bandcamp music has become since the originally self-released albums from Car Seat Headrest’s humble beginnings and makes me hope for a Car Seat Headrest/100 Gecs tour? That would be… Insane... The sound is confusing but not grating on the ears, and the lyrics are a stream of consciousness style that Toledo has utilized for years, with a little keyboard smash of vocalized noise tossed in, as a treat.
A song that pulls together all the elements included in the album is the album opener “Weightlifters.” The song is a perfect blending of Toledo’s lo-fi rock and roll roots and those sample EDM beats Katz brings to the table. The lyrics really embody all the anxieties that myself and the people around me feel every day, even while carrying out mundane tasks. It’s the soundtrack to using Twitter as a diary because you cant stand all the thoughts bottled up in your brain.
Making A Door Less Open comes out May 1st on Matador Records (although some already have their vinyl pre-orders due to a shipping error). I remain a true Car Seat Headrest fan with the latest installment, and I already look forward to where this new sound takes them. Frequently bands are praised for being “genre defining” but I like that Car Seat Headrest is staunchly “genre undefining.” Make up your own phrase for this new sound, or let it stay unspoken and ambiguous; either way, don’t go into it expecting anything at all, because this album will surprise you with every new hook and riff.
Rating - 4/5