In 2011, Car Seat Headrest released Twin Fantasy, an album he labeled incomplete, on Bandcamp. The DIY album, recorded in the back seat of a car, was unsupported by a label and featured poor production quality, but it resonated. Car Seat Headrest were making music on their own, and it garnered them swathes of listeners.
Now, in 2018, Car Seat Headrest are re-releasing Twin Fantasy under Matador Records to show how much a band can evolve in seven years. Twin Fantasy still tells the tumultuous story of frontman Will Toledo's troubled romance with another man, but this re-recorded version shows significant musical growth — maybe even more than if the band released brand new music.
Throughout Twin Fantasy (2018), the guitar riffs are cleaner, the transitions are more fluid and Toledo's vocals sound less like he's in a tin can. That can maybe be attributed a higher budget, but a that wouldn't explain the small changes that were made to Twin Fantasy's original form. At the beginning of 2018's "Beach Life-in-Death," the sound of a beer can opening and someone drinking starts the track; the beginning of "Bodys" is digitized, in contrast to its original intro; and on "Cute Thing," Toledo sings, "Give me Frank Ocean's voice," instead of the original "Give me Dan Bejar's voice." It's all those small changes that prove Car Seat Headrest are constantly moving forward.
The refurbishment of "Beach Life-in-Death," the album's second track, makes it a potential front-runner for the best rock song of 2018. Sure, that may be a bold statement so early in the year, but at a little over 13 minutes long, the track deals with such heady subject matter as the mundaneness of living, loving and dying; it's several different ideas, both instrumentally and lyrically, neatly wrapped in a single, cohesive package. In 2011, "Beach Life-in-Death," was a great track, but now, they've made it exceptional.
It's a challenging album at parts, but those challenges are broken up by short, digestible moments that still provide moments of clarity. "Stop Smoking" is a quick and clear message of love, while "Nervous Young Inhumans" calls out all the crappy songwriters who only sing about girls without really understanding love. "Bodys" offers a smirk-worthy meta-awareness when Toledo sings: "Is it the chorus yet? / No, it's just the building of the verse, so when the chorus does come it'll be more rewarding." By breaking the fourth wall, it feels like Toledo is inviting us along for the ride.
The age-old saying goes if something isn't broken, don't fix it, but the re-release of Twin Fantasy shows that, seven years later, Car Seat Headrest are capable of re-contextualizing their work in ways that cement the faith that we have in them as revolutionary musicians. (Matador)