Review: Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

Twin Fantasy was originally released on Bandcamp in 2011. Recorded by singer/songwriter Will Toledo on a budget of approximately zero (through his laptop microphone), it was an internet hit on Reddit and 4chan. Seven years and a record deal later, Toledo has re-recorded the whole album with the full band and studio he now wields. The results are often brilliant but sometimes fall flat.

This re-recorded Twin Fantasy is made up of the same sounds that populated Car Seat Headrest’s 2016 breakout Teens of Denial: tried and tested indie rock unafraid to venture into the anthemic. If this sounds like a premise that was already old in 2007, then that’s because it is. Luckily, Toledo has the songwriting ability to make it seem fresh: the best of his songs pair catchy melodies with incisive lyrics (“Beach Life-in-Death” is an early standout). This means that the shout-along choruses, when they come, are hard-earned and hugely cathartic. Toledo isn’t a groundbreaking songwriter, but he can be an excellent one.

That’s not to say Car Seat Headrest are without ambition. Two songs on Twin Fantasy stretch past the thirteen-minute mark, both moving through several distinct sections. Some lyrics resurface at different points, adding to the album’s cohesiveness. The grandness of Toledo’s vision should certainly be lauded, but it also ends up being his undoing. “High to Death” spends nearly eight minutes being a bit boring and “Famous Prophets (Stars)” could have about half of its sixteen minutes trimmed. There are also a few spoken-word sections which are, to be blunt, total shit.

These songs are clearly precious to Toledo; he’s re-recorded them all seven years later. But he should have learnt to kill his darlings: he could have taken the re-recording opportunity to tighten up his 2011 album and iron out some of its naïveties. Instead, he’s made it cleaner and clearer but more bloated. Its high points are great enough to make the new Twin Fantasy more than worthwhile, but the feeling of what might have been is hard to shake.

4/5

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