Throughout the 71 minutes of Car Seat Headrest’s superb new (half new) album Twin Fantasy, frontman Will Toledo sings about being human. Or rather, about the struggle to be human when it feels like he simply does not relate to anyone around him. On this new version of his 2011 Bandcamp album of the same name, Toledo shines with an unashamedly honest whirlwind of a record.
This album puts Toledo’s growth as both a lyricist and a songwriter on full display, as the record is much more fleshed out and polished. Look no further than lead single “Nervous Young Inhumans,” originally a so-so middle tier song which Toledo revamped into a glam-rock opus backed by siren-like guitars. Throughout the record, Toledo doesn’t just rerecord Twin Fantasy with better equipment, but he reimagines it with years of growth as a songwriter.
That growth is most easily seen on the revamped and lengthened “Famous Prophets (Stars),” one of the album’s standouts. Toledo hones in guitar driven rage, a piano ballad and even spoken word over the span of the song’s 16 minute runtime. This song is six minutes longer than the 2011 version and is packed with ambition, including an entirely new piano driven riff that steers the song in an entirely new and fresh direction. Rarely, if ever, do these steps of ambition fall short on the record.
One of Car Seat Headrest’s strongest suits is the band’s longer songs, which have been a staple of Toledo’s throughout his career (two songs on this album clock in at over 13 minutes). Will Toledo’s ability to craft songs that continuously change and evolve is what truly sets him apart from many of his indie-rock peers. Although the length of the tracks may appear daunting at first, the evolution that takes place over each song makes the album more rewarding after each listen as seen on the romping “Beach Life-After-Death.”
The album’s main fault lies in overproduction on some tracks that benefited from the DIY sheen of the 2011 Twin Fantasy. “Bodys” is a prime example, as the lack of reverb isolates the warmness of the song and creates a far less compelling version that the original. The warmth of heavy reverb littered throughout the first record is mostly gone in the cleaned up 2018 edition. However, this problem is sparsely seen, as a great majority of this record benefits from a clearer sound.
On “Cute Thing,” Toledo begs God, “Give me Frank Ocean’s voice and James Brown’s stage presence,”( as if Toledo’s musical gifts aren’t enough to succeed). Yet, what he lacks in raw talent he makes up in songwriting and sheer ability to convey his emotion. That very same song is one of the best on the record, as Toledo’s lyrics perfectly convey the frustration, anger and hope of youth powered behind crunching guitars.
One of the joys of Twin Fantasy is how the album works on numerous levels at the same time. It captivates and succeeds as a stand- alone album and one of the best records released so far in 2018. But it also works as a re-imagination of the 2011 record and a testament to Toledo’s growth as an artist, allowing the listener to compare the two versions. Toledo has not just developed into a fantastic songwriter, but one of the best in his entire generation.