Hailing from Virginia, twenty- three year old Will Toledo’s indie rock project, Car Seat Headrest has become some kind of sensational, gaining a sizable following in the States and in Europe. Currently on tour as a group, the band released Teens of Denial on May 20th and is showcasing the twelve tracks featured on the album. Comparable to anything between Marcy Playground and Weezer, Car Seat Headrest makes it a point not to sacrifice the weight of the lyrics for instrumental fluff, letting each word fall forward in all its raggedy glory.
The album kicks off with “Fill in the Blank,” which is a cathartic dilution of some inevitable questions. Toledo attacks them steeped in his usual nonchalance, like he’s signing to himself under his breath, except the message is universal. “You have no right to be depressed,” he says, and he’s talking to all the individuals wallowing in their beautiful burned out youth just as much as he’s talking to his own conscience. The relatability element is always present without becoming forced or premeditated, and there lies the immense appeal.
“Destroyed by Hippie Powers” perpetuates the theme of “Fill in the Blank,” and the instrumental crunch invites us in right away, disconnecting the frayed wire that we insist on plugging into our realities. “Tell my mother I’m goin’ home, I have been destroyed by hippie powers,” asks Toledo, throwing in a few la la la’s to show that the damage ain’t so bad.
Then we have good ole’ honest Joe in “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)”, baring his soul, talkin’ bout Jesus, all while cocooned is his own resistance. Halfway through the album, we hit “Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales”, which presents a curious parallel and the concept of falling asleep in strange places. It’s characteristically mellow and all the while intriguing in its poetry. I like the seventh track “1937 State Park” for one big reason- it starts off like a bedroom jam sesh and shifts into a pure rock n’ roll track, a testament to Car Seat Headrest’s balance between experimentation and classic song structure.
Number Ten, “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia,” stays true to its given name, with a sentimentally- pitched chord progression and a slow but charged tone, evoking Laura Jane Grace in her more acoustic moments. The song focuses on “trying to regain some sense of peace,” and its heavy melody and trumpet interludes bring to mind a certain street corner sadness, amplified by a ruptured sense of self. The album ends on “Joe Goes to School,” circling back to the boy and all that he stands for. I would recommend Teens of Denial to anyone who’s willing to be spoken to instead of simply pleasured. The band’s interpretation of youth is, above all, honest, trading a misplaced nostalgia for a chance to reflect and a willingness to build on those reflections. Their sound relies on their words, and paired with non- overbearing but fitting instrumentals, it feels whole.
Once the wrap up the European leg of their tour, be sure to catch them at New York’s South Street Seaport in July.