Thursday, 30 June 2016

Car Seat Headrest

My friend Rose previously wrote a beautiful guest blog on Father John Misty. Rose has excellent style and taste and I was intrigued to hear her enthuse about a new band I had never heard of called Car Seat Headrest.

So I asked Rose to write another guest blog. Here it is....oh and check out the band - raw, soulful, guitar music. Check Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales for evidence of how they can do gorgeous mellow stuff and easily move to glorious indie guitar rock in the vein of early Strokes with a dash or dose of Parquet Courts.


Car Seat Headrest – Broadcast, Glasgow 23/06/16


Back in February this year, whilst listening to the excellent NPR All Songs Considered podcast on my morning commute, I first heard the song Vincent (all 7 mins and 40 secs of it) by the interestingly named Car Seat Headrest. It's no exaggeration to say that, if I wasn't hurtling along the M80, I would have pulled the car over instantly to listen and appreciate it properly; I was completely blown away by the urgent, indie rock guitar progressions, the clever articulate lyrics that reflect life as a self-aware yet often angst-ridden teen and a fresh, exciting, immersive sound - the likes of which I hadn't heard for many years. I listened to that song on repeat on the commute back home, and in the days to come, telling anyone who would listen how amazing it was.



Seattle based Car Seat Headrest started out life as a solo project by Will Toledo (he has now surrounded himself by some very fine musicians). Toledo is a product of the 'Bandcamp generation' of musicians - those who write, perform, record and distribute their own music through digital channels. To benefit from some privacy in the early days, Toledo recorded his songs on his laptop whilst sitting in the back seat of his parents' minivan in his hometown of Leesburg, Virginia  - hence the Car Seat Headrest moniker. By 2015, at the age of 23, he had recorded and released 11 albums through Bandcamp, gaining a sizeable  cult following online,  and had caught the attention of Matador records, to which he signed that same year. His first release Teens of Style on Matador was a 'best of' of previous material, and was followed with his first proper label release Teens of Denial in May 2016 and an international tour. Toledo is incredibly knowledgeable about music. You can hear his influences spread throughout all of his songs  - reviewers often liken his music to Pavement, Television or Leonard Cohen. I often hear REM, The Strokes, Blur, Nirvana or Okkervil River.  So far, for me, Teens of Denial is the album of year (I have listened to it obsessively since its release 6 weeks ago) and so it was with much excitement and anticipation that we joined 150 or so other fans in a hot and sweaty Broadcast in Glasgow to see and hear Toledo and his band in the flesh.

Will Toledo
Picture by Anna Webber

Over the course of the next 75 mins we were treated to a blistering, relentless, high energy 9-song set.  It was a big old, glorious racket of a gig...and we all loved it. The 10 minute opener  The Ending of Dramamine set the tone, with raw,  brash, duelling guitars and a mixture of both hushed and loud, shouty vocals. A point of note here, on this most recent album in particular , Toledo is not one for a simply constructed 3 minute song; his songs are complex, both in terms of construction and lyrical variety, with multi-layered instrumentation and rarely shorter than 5 minutes in length, with quite a few in the show pushing 10/12 mins long. It's never dull though, because the song progressions shift a number of times and so you often feel you're getting 3 songs for the price of 1. 

The band treat us to a good mixture of old (Sober to Death, Stop Smoking) and new; standouts from his recent album included Fill In The Blank, Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales and the utterly awesome Destroyed by Hippie Powers.  A worthy mention here to his guitarist Ethan Ives; the Carlos Puyol lookalike (this amused me greatly) treated us to some incredible musicianship and some damn fine guitar playing and was the perfect accompaniment to Toledo. The standout track of the night for me (and also from the album itself) was The Ballad of the Costa Concordia - at almost 12 minutes long it can only be described as an 'epic' and has more ideas crammed into one song than some artists achieve on a whole album. It's an ambitious song that progresses from a slow, quiet ballad to a rousing, high tempo finale - with a genius Dido White Flag lyric sample thrown in for good measure; think Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird but only much more epic. It was an absolute joy to see it performed live in all its glory. 


After a closing rendition of Stop Smoking sung solo by Toledo, the crowd waited impatiently for the band to reappear. After much synchronised hand-clapping they did just that and launched into a terrific performance  of Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An). There were a few grumblings of disappointment that it wasn't the aforementioned Vincent - not from me though, it's a fantastic song and I was delighted they played it.

Toledo and his band are incredibly talented and, if there is any justice in the world, this will be the album that brings Car Seat Headrest to a much wider audience. So if you get a chance to catch them while they're still playing small venues then do, cos my prediction is they won't be playing them for much longer.


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