In a sentence:
Despite many flashes of genius, Will Toledo’s latest Car Seat Headrest album ‘Making A Door Less Open’ is fundamentally confused and split in its identity.
There has always been an awkward charm to the music of Will Toledo, which has seen his Seattle-based project Car Seat Headrest gain a huge cult-following. Buoyed by an ever-expanding discography in the early part of the 2010s, Toledo’s output in the final half of the decade resulted in just the one record of fully new material, 2016’s critically adored Teens Of Denial. New album Making A Door Less Open, unlike its predecessor Twin Fantasy (Face To Face) which saw Toledo painstakingly re-imagine and re-create his album from 2011, is a vision not based on the past, but one looking forward to the future.
Making A Door Less Open is best personified by the record’s accompanying essay ‘Newness and Strangeness’, where Toledo explains his desire to move away from traditional rock-based recordings into a new EDM influenced direction. Unfortunately, like all things new to us, Toledo has a lot to learn if he’s to summon up the same of kind of magic as his previous Car Seat Headrest work.
The record is
best epitomised by its various tracklistings; those who stream the album are
treated to a different experience to those listening on physical formats and
the result on both records is a disjointed listen. Even though this was by
design, Making A Door Less Open suffers
for its individualistic tendencies.
The contrasting ‘Deadlines (Hostile)’ and ‘Deadlines (Thoughtful)’
highlight the good and bad of the record; in the former, we have a piece of
atypical instrumentation with surging guitars and the blemished croons of
Toledo’s voice adding a level of emotion which fans have come to love. However,
on the latter’s electronic partner we have a less cohesive effort. The track’s
new ideas come off less as a burgeoning step into new territory, but rather a
minimalist mess which fails to gratify with sloppy and directionless
That isn’t to say
that every expedition into a new sound fails. The opening synth-led ‘Weightlifters’ creates a
vibrant and excitable atmosphere as guitar licks and drums work in colourful
cohesion. Elsewhere on the record, we have standout cut ‘There Must Be More Than Blood’
which evokes tones similar to those felt during 2014’s How To Leave Town.
Clocking in at over seven minutes in length, it is the longest track on the
record but it never overstays its welcome; instead, we can meditate with the
changing textures as the song builds towards its gradual outro. It’s a track
that doesn’t rush, and has a comfortable sense of its own identity.
This can also be
said for lead single ‘Can’t
Cool Me Down’, an obvious attempt at something more mainstream and a
terrific blend of ‘80s synth-pop with clever lyricism to match. Energetic
throughout, it manages to perfectly encapsulate CSH’s prior lo-fi sounds and
emphasises the best of what is to come.
Though we know
the goal, there are still too many moments in Making A Door Less Open
that baffle throughout. ‘Hymn –
Remix’ is an in-your-face blend of frenetic electronics and spiraling
guitars which includes awkward blends of genres that even modern-day Muse would
be proud of. Although even this is better than the incessant yet totally forgettable
recent single ‘Hollywood’.
Basic in its indie-rock sound, the track serves as nothing more than an
indulgent and generic piece on the failings of its namesake.
At its best, Making A Door Less Open is an interesting
but often clunky release with brilliant lyricism and interesting palettes of
sound which strive to push forward. Too often, Toledo doesn’t find the balance
between something more accessible and at the same time more adventurous
instrumentally. A band in transition, Car Seat Headrest are still learning
their way in their new direction, but that does not excuse many of the failings
on show. (5/10) (John Tindale)
Listen to Making A Door Less Open by Car Seat Headrest here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Andrew Katz, Car Seat Headrest, Ethan Ives, John Tindale, Making A Door Less Open, Matador, Seth Dalby, Will Toledo
Reading Music Journalism at Huddersfield University, I have a passion for all things musical. I pride myself on being open minded in music genres and have a love of writing to match. The coolest cat on The Student Playlist, I also support Hartlepool United and am an avid pro-wrestling fan.
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