Album Review: Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

Indie rock group Car Seat Headrest are re-releasing their classic 2011 album Twin Fantasy on the 16th of February. The same songs re-recorded, re-imagined and professionally finished, with plenty of new flourishes and extra touches to make the experience totally different to whatever you were expecting.

The 2011 Twin Fantasy album was originally self-released on their bandcamp over six years ago and it became their most popular self-released album. It was created at a time when Will Toledo was making most of his recordings in his bedroom (or recording the vocals in his car for privacy), he has said that he always knew the album was unfinished and that he would return to it. Back then he didn’t know how to finish it, nor did he have access to the professional studio or equipment, but now he has some closure with the help of Matador Records.

If you have heard their other work you may have noted how listening to the albums change over time is like watching a person grow, try new things, leave some things behind and move on. Twin Fantasy has continued to evolve in this same way, starting out awkward and self-conscious (but wonderful) in its first incarnation, now metamorphosing and emerging in more colour and brilliance than before. The music has grown with Toledo, followed him down dark paths and through difficult times – coming back to an album like this is akin to stepping back into his younger self, full of teen angst and tragedy, but it hasn’t overwhelmed him and you can hear how his work has developed with age just by comparing these two albums. Now older, wiser and with more experience under his belt Toledo has returned to every song with compassion, recognising his past and forgiving his younger self. I wonder how his younger self would react to hearing this album now? To me it’s almost like a letter to a younger Toledo, reaching back into time and putting out a hand for the guy that struggled and lamented and felt unsure of his place in the world.

Recorded in a studio, it has lost some of the lo-fi charm and fuzz from the old album but it certainly hasn’t lost its soul or its passion. I felt a little apprehensive of how it was going to change, wondering if it would be worth investing in, but I was very wrong. The sound has been transformed well and the songs have been tightened up so that fans of the band will get their old favourite melodies and lyrics (with a few alterations) revived with new energy. I for one enjoyed the original lo-fi fuzz and the DIY aesthetic of the old album, but this new sound Toledo has created explodes into life and you can’t help but listen to the whole album front to back to really take in all of the changes. One other notable change is the addition of synthesisers in some of the songs, they really add an extra dimension to the music and it was a nice surprise to hear for the first time. The guitars have kept some distortion, calling-back to that lo-fi feeling from before and it doesn’t feel too clean or sanitised in any way, so if you’re keen to check this out don’t feel off-put by the studio recording.

A good comparison to summarise would be to say that the 2011 Twin Fantasy album was like a sketch (and a bloody good one at that), with lots of attention and detail put into it, but the new album is like a completed painting of that sketch, with extra heart and soul poured into it, fuller sound and all the same emotion, turmoil and longing as before with an explosion of fresh life.

You can pre-order the new Twin Fantasy album online now, or go check them out live.
They are currently on tour and have the following shows lined up:

24/02 – Sydney, Australia – Sydney Limits Fest
25/02 – Perth, Australia – Rosemont
28/02 – Melbourne, Australia – Croxton
01/03 – Brisbane, Australia – Triffid
03/03 – Auckland, NZ, Auckland Limits fest
06/04 – Eugene, OR, US – WOW Hall
08/04 – Boise, ID, US – Knitting Factory
10/04 – Missoula, MT, US – Top Hat
11/04 – Spokane, WA, US – Knitting Factory
12/04 – Olympia, WA, US – Capitol Theater
13/04 – Bellingham, WA, US – Wild Buffalo
14/04 – Tacoma, WA, US – Real Art
16/05 – Dublin, Ireland – Olympia Theatre
18/05 – Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC
19/05 – Liverpool, UK – Invisible Wind Factory
21/05 – Cambridge, UK – Junction 2
22/05 – Bristol, UK – SWX
23/05 – London, UK – Roundhouse
25/05 – Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgique
26/05 – Paris, France – Le Trabendo
28/05 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
29/05 – Koln, Germany – Kantine
30/05 – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel & Gefahrlich
31/05 – Berlin, Germany – Festsaal Kreuzberg

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