Album Review: Car Seat Headrest // Making A Door Less Open

There are few artists who transcend their own discography in the way that Car Seat Headrest do. 

The band have come to encompass more than a series of chords, more even than their confessional lyrics or press acclaim. Over the past ten years or so, we have watched frontman Will Toledo grow; with each of Car Seat‘s LPs offering a candid insight into another snapshot of personal development. It almost seems surreal to think that, with so little to offer the mainstream market – and such a stubborn desire to remain just a hair away from accessibility – Car Seat Headrest have inadvertently achieved such recognition. From solo bedroom project, to US festival mainstays.

Recent single ‘Hollywood’ perfectly showcases this singular vision. With more obvious radio hits on the album [such as album highlight ‘Deadlines (Hostile)’], Car Seat chose to release one the records most experimental offerings.

With the track’s finger-pointing towards the shitty view Will Toledo has of Hollywood superficiality, it feels perfectly calculated and troll-like to release this radio un-friendly hit as an album teaser. “Hollywood makes me wanna puke”, the frontman recalls with sarcastic detachment, like a GarageBand Beck from the 90s.

More so than previous releases; Making A Door Less Open wears its lack of sonic cohesion as a badge of honour. From the acoustic soft-rock of ‘What’s With You Lately’, immediately to the frantic synth hook of ‘Life Worth Missing’. There is space to complain that the album fails to capture a singular sound. This, however, is where the listener finds payoff; it’s in the realisation that the thread within these incohesive tracks is, in fact, frontman Will Toledo – once you invest in him, everything else makes perfect sense.

This record, much like Car Seat’s other releases, is led entirely by the singer’s vision. The track list rolls on as a stream of consciousness – occasionally blindingly self-assured, occasionally cripplingly anxious. From the lovelorn ‘Martin’, to the agitated ‘Deadlines (Thoughful)’ – which sounds like Todd Terje having a psychotic episode.

As they have grown from a solo project, with Ethan Ives playing guitar, Toledo has reconfigured his role as vocalist. ‘A Life Worth Missing’ contains little flickers of The National‘s Matt Berninger, and occasional tones of LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy creep into the verses of ‘There Must Be More Than Blood’.

“There must be more than blood, that holds us together. // There must be more than wind that takes us away,” the singer pleads on the album’s penultimate track.

Car Seat Headrest remain, at its core, a personal journey for the frontman. Dressed up in whatever guises necessary – Electro, Indie, Folk – this is primarily a first-person exploration of the introspective.

Making a Door Less Open sees CSH subbing out much of their guitar for synths, whilst keeping all of their jagged, lo-fi presence. This album is a fitting stride in an ongoing transformation; from solo bedroom project, to US festival mainstays, to underdog icons.

Rating: ★★★★★

Car Seat Headrest’s Making A Door Less Open is now available to stream. You can also help support independent record stores and order a copy from our friends over at Banquet Records.

Author avatar
Matt Ganfield

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