It’s a rare and special thing to love every single song on an album. Car Seat Headrest’s most recent release, Teens of Denial, is a ride from start to finish, with each track tugging at the heartstrings in a way that makes you want to cry and wail on the air guitar at the same time.
Car Seat Headrest began in Leesburg, Virginia as the solo project of college student Will Toledo. After signing with Matador Records in 2015, Car Seat Headrest released Teens of Style and Teens of Denial. These are the only two albums that were not self-released; Car Seat Headrest has been releasing music on Bandcamp since 2010.
The band’s earlier releases, namely 1, 2, 3, and 4 have a distorted, psychedelic, shoegaze-y quality, with each song running into the next. Car Seat Headrest has progressively moved away from lo-fi and into harder rock. Teens of Denial has a bite that might remind you of Modest Mouse or Radiohead. Toledo said in an interview with USA Today that one of the goals for this album was to create tracks that could be played more easily live. The guitar is less fuzzy, the vocals are clearer, and the drums are heavier on Teens of Denial than any Car Seat Headrest album that has come before it.
Despite a change in flavor, this shiny new album still shares some qualities with its older sisters, such as stream of consciousness lyrics, themes of anxiety, confusion, and nostalgia, and a lazy, occasionally synthesized voice. Toledo has a knack for writing emotionally vulnerable lyrics that are both poetic and relatable. On Teens of Denial, Toledo did not compromise the poignancy of his lyrics for better sound.
“Fill in the Blank” is probably the catchiest song on the album, rocking a guitar and a rhythm that will get stuck in your head 24/7. “Vincent” is largely instrumental and preserves the band’s experimental shoegaze quality while still retaining a hard rock vibe. “(Joe Gets Kicked out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends (But Insists it isn’t a Problem)” tells the comical story of a psychedelic trip gone wrong to a folky tune. The album’s songs tend to be on the lengthy side, usually due to excellently composed instrumental sections in between sets of lyrics. There’s something a little special in each song that makes listening to this album from beginning to end worth every second.
Teens of Denial is Car Seat Headrest’s most structured album yet, and, in my civilian opinion, the band’s ticket to going down in indie rock history.
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