Album of the Week: Car Seat Headrest, 'Teens of Denial'

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Car Seat Headrest, 'Teens of Denial'
Car Seat Headrest, 'Teens of Denial' (Matador Records)

The scene outside the Triple Rock on the July night Car Seat Headrest stopped in Minneapolis wasn't an average Monday. You could feel the 380-capacity room at the Triple Rock Social Club reach its max as the line through the club's long entrance slowed to a halt. There was a frantic energy outside the club as show-goers realized they might not get in. The last people through the door dutifully watched from the back of the space, hoping to find a sightline to Will Toledo as his band ripped through songs from the newly released Teens of Denial. Leading up to the band's return to the Twin Cities, what is it about Car Seat Headrest that has so many music fans swooning over Toledo and his music?

Maybe it's because Toledo's Teens of Denial sounds like a rejection of the times. It's introspective, self-deprecating, and nothing like the trendy pop-centric rock of the past decade. The songs are personal, imaginative and intelligent. There is a rugged individualism underneath Toledo's preppy swagger that comes through on songs that are completely unapologetic. His confidence might come from self-releasing eight albums before signing to Matador Records for what many newcomers would consider his debut album.

If you don't find Teens of Denial a charming rebellion against indie rock, you might still fall for its nostalgic appeal. The album invokes a DIY aesthetic reminiscent of the early '90s, without being contrived or overtly trying to sound like grunge. Working with Steve Fisk, who has produced bands from Beat Happening to Nirvana, the album perfectly balances the dynamic between Toledo's lo-fi aesthetic and what happens when he gets together with a band. Instead of emulating the sounds of mainstream alternative music, Toledo seems more akin to Stephen Malkmus or Corin Tucker than Kurt Cobain or Liz Phair.

At 70 minutes, Teens of Denial could qualify as an indie-rock opus, ranging from timid opening on "Vincent" to the chunky layers of guitar on "Connect The Dots (The Saga Of Frank Sinatra)." The lack of structure between the songs is important to the experience. Just like that live show, the unpredictable nature of the album makes it stand out against the verse, chorus, verse you get in daily life.

Car Seat Headrest's Teens of Denial is out now. The band will play the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 90 percent gave the album 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23.
Teens of Denial ratings summary

Resources

Car Seat Headrest - Bandcamp

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  • Car Seat Headrest perform in The Current studio Will Toledo, frontman and visionary behind Car Seat Headrest, is introducing the world to Car Seat Headrest, the band. 'This is no longer a solo project,' he says. In town to play a sold-out show at the Triple Rock Social Club, Car Seat Headrest visited The Current's studio, where they played songs off their debut album, as well as a web-exclusive cover of David Bowie's 'Blackstar.'
  • Melodies and Metaphors with Car Seat Headrest Musician Will Toledo, the singer/songwriter/visionary of Car Seat Headrest, offers up a playlist with a little food humor mixed with tunes that'll help your party coast for hours.

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    Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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