Car Seat Headrest have recently released a completely remastered version of Will Toledo's Bandcamp solo project "Twin Fantasy" from back 2011, an album I had never heard before, despite the band releasing my #2 favorite album of 2016 (Teens of Denial) and occupying a permanent spot on my weekly playlists since late 2015 when I randomly discovered "Something Soon" off of previous masterpiece Teens of Style (2015). I saw Will and the band three times in concert I believe, all in 2016/2017 and their show at the Bowery Ballroom in 2016, I still remember being my favorite show of the year, which is shocking because he looked so young (he's 25... I'm old) and the band seemed so young but their performances are so secure, with so much style and energy and CONFIDENCE, for such a young band... I've definitely been impressed by Car Seat Headrest and had high hopes for their followup to Teens of Denial.
What is vaguely shocking is their followup is this re-recording of songs from 2011, which Will in an interview with Rolling Stone said felt like doing an "album of covers," given his musical style and abilities and place in his mind are so very different than when he wrote and recorded that album on his computer (long before he was signed to major indie label Matador Records). What is incredibly shocking is how much I love this album. I had at some point in 2017 - in search for more, older Car Seat Headrest, having exhausted my plays of Teens of Denial and Teens of Style, I'd downloaded Will's 2013 collection Nervous Young Man from Bandcamp, where he writes it's a collection of songs written between the ages of 17 and 21. And while that album is very hit and miss (as a collection of songs tends to be), I couldn't stop listening to "Big Jacket"... a really perfect song that even goes beyond the really perfect songs from Teens of Denial that grabbed 3 of my top 10 slots in my end of 2016 song countdown. But that was the last I'd explored his older tracks and then... this. Perfect album.
I've had it what - 2 weeks now - and I can look at the plays on my iTunes and each song has a minimum of 28 plays so I've listened to this at least twice a day for 2 weeks. I can't tell you how rare that is in my musical listening these days. Yeah, 15 years ago when I was deep into indie rock's burgeoning boom, sure... even 10 years ago when I listened to everything Spencer Krug put out on an endless loop, I'm sure I could rack up that many listens pretty fast... but not now, not in recent years, in the midst of a "serious relationship" and "living in NYC (Hoboken)" and with an "agent trying to sell two novels as I write a third one"... plus you know a full-time job that involves a boatload of travel, it's just that time to discover new music and wallow in new music and appreciate the joys of an album are so limited, I really need to be blown away by an album. I can't tell you the last time I've been this blown away. I can't stop listening.
Twin Fantasy is the story of a relationship, one that sounds (and has been acknowledged to be) at least somewhat autobiographical for a 19-year-old William Barnes (Toledo is his middle name). And if you listen to the lyrics you will discover the masterpiece of this album in a way that the music itself - which is perfect by the way - doesn't quite let you realize. It took about 20 listens to "Beach Life in Death" before I even considered this might be a gay relationship he was talking about and not until I started reading the lyrics did I realize - oh yeah, it is. He's talking about a boy he was in love with and all the attendant trauma of your first gay relationship added onto all the trauma of a first real relationship and also - he was 19 - so yeah it's emotional. And maybe it's weird to be a middle-aged man listening to the musings of a 19-year-old but shit it's brilliant. He's brilliant. I don't care how old he is.
"I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my friends. I never came out to my friends." That's a lyric from "Beach Life in Death" and I could literally write every word from the song to talk about its majesty but I won't bore you with all that, I'll just say run don't walk to download that song and listen. It's long - 13 minutes - and has so many changes in pace and emotion and mood and vocal volume (from soft-spoken to screaming) that it's an epic in and of itself... and that's just the start of the album/ relationship.
Twin Fantasy begins with "My Boy (Twin Fantasy)" a very brief song comparatively speaking - then Beach Life's sprawling anthem then "Stop Smoking" (1:29) is a palette cleanser for "Sober to Death" (5:04) and what I feel is the weakest track on the album (but still very good) "Nervous Young Inhumans" (5:26). Then, unbelievably, the album gets much much better with high-octane churner "Bodys" (6:47) then "Cute Thing" (5:39) then the brilliant "High to Death" (7:39) and at that point you might need to sit down because the best song on the entire collection comes - repeating the themes and style of "Beach Life" in many ways, but now at the end of the relationship, after the fantasy and joy have met with the harsher realities and frustrations of loving another person who is not perfect (and neither are you) and it just blows me away every time. Such beauty and grace and .. I'll say it again - brilliance. The song is called "Famous Prophets (Stars)" and is one of the greatest songs I've heard in a long time. It's also 16 minutes long. So there's that.
"Apologies to future me's and you's. But I can't help feeling like we're through. The ripping of the tape hurts my ears. In my years, I've never seen anyone quit quite like you do."
Fuck. That's the opening verse, spoken slowly into the microphone. And it gets worse (better) from there. If you've ever been hurt in a relationship or felt that pain for whatever reason - I know he was fucking 19 when he wrote this - but fuck if it doesn't hit you in the heart. It's so beautiful. I want you to download "Beach Life" first and then the whole album second and then at some point ease into "Famous Prophets" because you won't quite be able to handle it otherwise. Not without everything that meant so much in this relationship during the album now ending.
"Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)" closes out the collection and it all does sort of blend together with the previous song and the opener and if you have the whole thing on repeat like I do you will blend right back into the start and appreciate more the next listen. Honestly you really need to listen 28 times and then get back to me. I'll be here listening.
This blog belongs to Bill Elenbark.
Lover of songs. Writer of wrongs.