David’s Discs: What to check out (or avoid) this month
Album Review: Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) by Car Seat Headrest
Will Toledo is a singer-songwriter in his mid-20s who has been making lo-fi rock music since 2010 under the name Car Seat Headrest. Initially, he was the sole member of the project, independently releasing all his albums on Bandcamp. Then, in 2015, he signed with Matador Records and recruited a guitarist, bassist and drummer. As a result, the releases of 2015’s Teens of Style and 2016’s Teens of Denial were accompanied by the backing of the label and several notable music publications, widening his audience considerably.
Twin Fantasy was first released by Toledo back in 2011. This release is, in the eyes of Toledo’s core fan base, perhaps his definitive masterpiece from the Bandcamp years. However, given that that original recording was extremely lo-fi (there are claims that it was actually recorded in the backseat of a car), Toledo and crew have re-recorded the album with the subtitle Face to Face. Personally, I had never listened to Car Seat Headrest before, so this new recording of Twin Fantasy was my introduction to Toledo’s music. Here’s what I thought.
First of all, you’re going to find some top-tier songwriting on this record. The tracks tend to be on the longer side, with two of the songs exceeding 10 minutes, and yet they never overstay their welcome. Many songs feature multiple phases, so the themes and ideas aren’t dragged out needlessly. There are drawn out moments, especially on the epic 16-minute “Famous Prophets”, but these extended sequences serve to sell the emotional intensity of the record, and they work really well. The hooks are fantastic too; there are choruses and anthems throughout that just bury themselves into your mind.
Yes, the album is intense, even overwhelming. At the centre of it are Toledo’s lyrics: they are deeply personal, heartfelt and shockingly perceptive. Also notable is his performance, which just ties the whole experience together. I will say that Toledo doesn’t have the most conventionally ‘pretty’ voice, but it carries every ounce of anguish and passion he can muster (besides, it’s indie rock, what do you expect?). Listening to this record, you can’t help but completely relate to it, both in the lyrics and in Toledo’s sincerity. Whether it’s about love, loneliness, insecurity, boredom, malaise, frustration, or just adolescence in general, this album demands total empathy, and earns it.
Twin Fantasy is a torrent of unadulterated expression and feeling, and it utterly engulfed me. This is an early standout of 2018, and I don’t expect there will be a better rock album this year.
My Score: 9/10
Album Review: Marbled by Abhi the Nomad
This sweet album blends hip-hop with bouncy soft rock and carries a consistent, positive message and tone. “Letter to God” is a standout, with its incorporation of strings and a sense of urgency. Overall, the album is a tad one-note, but it’s nonetheless enjoyable and definitely worth a listen.
My Score: 7/10
Album Review: Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand
This album soured on me really fast. During my initial listens to this album, I found it inoffensively boring; then, on my third listen, it reared its ugly head. The songs here are flat and uninspired. Everything just sounds mechanical, which is never a good thing when it comes to dance-punk. The band sounds like they’re going through the motions, and the tunes are dull as it is. The singer sounds like a thrice-recycled version of an indie rock band from the early 2000s, and his performance is honestly grating.
The real turd here is the lyrical content. The lyrics range from meaningless to blatantly stupid. What’s worse, the same lines are repeated over and over in almost every song — to pad out the track lengths, I suppose. “And the Academy Award for good times goes to you” has to be one of the most irritatingly obtuse, mind-numbing things I’ve had to listen to this month. Quite honestly, I’d find the seagulls from Finding Nemo squawking “Mine!” for an hour more tolerable. Due warning, “The Academy Award” is by the far the worst track on this album. The first and last tracks are passable, but, as an album, Always Ascending is simply a nuisance.
My Score: 3/10