Car Seat Headrest’s Expansive Whiplash Tone Shift

On May 4th 2020 » By Jonah Graber

Making a Door Less Open

Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Making A Door Less Open, the new album from Car Seat Headrest.

Making A Door Less Open marks the 12th project in 10 years of Will Toledo’s band, Car Seat Headrest. It’s their first since re-making their 2011 bedroom breakout Twin Fantasy in its entirety, and their first full-length of entirely new material since 2016’s Teens Of Denial. Teens of Denial was a charming and indulgent pastiche of ’90’s rock, while Making A Door Less Open is a dramatic shift toward connecting to a broader audience through big beats and more electronic textures.

Making A Door Less Open is indeed a Car Seat Headrest project — but it is not a Will Toledo project. Written and performed by his gas mask-wearing, alter-ego “Trait,” he set out to make the album a little less autobiographical and separate Car Seat Headrest from Will Toledo.

The shift in tone is drastic. The album opens with “Weightlifters,” a track that is centered around a creaky synth lead and builds with arena-ready drums. Toledo sings, “maybe I should start lifting weights,” in higher fidelity than we’ve ever heard him. Though the electronic arena-ready alt-pop tone was jarring at first, it often comes across as earnest and genuine through a heartfelt performance.

There are moments throughout the record that feel a little less like genuine emotion, and a little more like satire — for better or worse. The high energy, big-riff centered, lamenting letter to Hollywood, titled “Hollywood,” leans more toward the latter. Trait and drummer Andrew Katz scream “Hollywood makes me wanna puke” throughout, over a riff that could have just as easily been placed on a New Politics record in 2015. Hollywood is placed right next to “Hymn (Remix)” in the tracklist, a song that builds tons of musical momentum and doesn’t stop evolving. It feels like the intention is to create a high-energy, exciting interlude but ends up feeling disjointed and like it casts too wide of a net — an issue that plagues the lowest moments on Making A Door Less Open.

There is, however, considerably more good than bad. “There Must Be More Than Blood” is a nearly eight-minute ode to the common threads that bind us together as people. The electronic textures feel less like caricatures here, and have more chemistry with the acoustic instrumentation — the kind of harmony of an electronic-but-play-like-a-traditional-band of groups like Mount Kimbie. Above all, Making A Door Less Open sounds like it was a ton of fun to make. If reaching a broader audience was the goal, then they’ll surely achieve it; the album hosts a wide range of sounds, and there really is something for everyone here.

Jonah

Jonah Graber

Jonah is a production student at UW-Madison. Most nights he dreams that he is Spider-man and hopes that maybe one day he will be.

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