Album of the Week: Car Seat Headrest, 'Making A Door Less Open'

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Car Seat Headrest, 'Making A Door Less Open'
Car Seat Headrest, 'Making A Door Less Open' (Matador)

The sound of "indie rock" in 2020, for better or for worse, feels tied to the sound of Car Seat Headrest since their breakthrough Teens of Denial. With a half-decade of self-released projects under their belt, Will Toledo and the crew broke out with a blend of trenchant riffs and hard-charging ballads, or maybe it was the other way around. The songs were dense with allusions, ripe for analysis on Genius, or they could simply be enjoyed and appreciated on a superficial level. That's been the M.O. for the band since, bringing a similar aesthetic to a re-recording of their Twin Fantasy in 2018. It made sense, then, that the band would shake up their sound for a new album, Making a Door Less Open.

As the album title would imply, it's not a drastic shift, just, well, adjusting things a bit. Toledo and Andrew Katz apparently have an electronic side project called 1 Trait Danger that has influenced the sound of the new record; given the volume of Toledo's releases, we could all be forgiven for not having followed that project closely. In true Toledo fashion, a cipher for unlocking the project is buried deep within another source, and while an enterprising listener may feel compelled to draw parallels between projects, most will be content to simply remark "Wow! Another band showing off New Order's influence," and move on.

There are some wonderful melodies and beats on Making a Door Less Open, notably the emotional "Martin," the anthemic "Life Worth Missing" and the de facto LCD Soundsystem tributes "Can't Cool Me Down" and "There Must Be More Than Blood." One of the singles, "Hollywood," drew a tremendously divided reaction upon its initial release: the song blends some truly motivational riffage with Toledo hollering in a silly voice about the superficiality of Hollywood. As a stab at breaking through to the mainstream, it seems bewildering, but if viewed as a straight-up Modest Mouse spoof, it's incredibly compelling, and probably the song on the record I come back to the most.

Does it say something that the butt rock single is my favorite song on the album, and I only have a limited desire to dive into any deeper mythology of the record? At the very least, Car Seat Headrest always leave us with a deep well of music that feels richer and longer than its stated run time, and will give audiences something new and unique every time they come back to the record.

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