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Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style

8.7

It feels like ages since an album like this has burst onto the scene, even if it’s probably only been about a year and a half. Introverted indie white boy retreats to his bedroom (or if this press kit is to be believed, the family car) to sort through his quarter-life crisis, and in the process discovers he has a gift for majestic hooks.

Recording as Car Seat Headrest, twentysomething native Virginian Will Toledo charges to the head of the class of the next generation of lo-fi rockers. Teens of Style is the best Guided By Voices album since Alien Lanes. To put a geeky wrapper on it, Car Seat Headrest is more accurately described as 55% GBV, 25% Cloud Nothings and 20% Panda Bear. Unlike Robert Pollard, Toledo is unafraid to stretch his compositions to the four minute mark and beyond. And he somehow finds ways to elevate his choruses to new heights the third (or fourth) time around – often through soaring layered vocal harmonies that account for the Panda Bear comparisons.

On the relatively subdued “No Passion” Toledo confides that his wildest sexual dreams involve watching porn on his laptop with a glare obscuring the good parts – if that’s not a perfect metaphor for the dual woes of detachment and frustration, I don’t know what is. But there’s no shortage of passion, despite Toledo’s deep-pitched, plainspoken vocals. The wailing guitars of “The Drum” could easily be mistaken for the work of a full band, and the hook-laden six-minute “Los Borrachos” manages to improve on its Kinks British Invasion vibe with keyboards recalling UK new wave bands of 15 years later.

Teens of Style is actually a collection of re-recorded tracks drawn from Car Seat Headrest’s slew of earlier Bandcamp self-releases, which have tended toward the slapdash. A follow-up, Teens of Denial, is due during the first half of 2016. It’ll be interesting to see if Toledo can deliver the goods as impressively with a batch of all new songs, but he’s already earned the right to be listed among the most anticipated releases of the new year.

“I want to sing this song like I’m dying,” Toledo declares on the excellent “Something Soon” – and damned if he doesn’t come close.

Car Seat Headrest
Teens of Style
[Matador]