- 01 May 20
Lo-fi indie heroes take an ambitious left turn on twelfth album.
Four years ago, Will Toledo was a top contender for the indie-rock throne, releasing Teens Of Denial to almost overwhelmingly delirious acclaim. However, 'indie saviour' was never a crown that would have fit comfortably atop the Car Seat Headrest mastermind's head – and he proves as much by defiantly taking his genre-bridging sound down an unfamiliar path on his long-awaited twelfth album, Making A Door Less Open.
Although CSH are known for their prolific output, releasing twelve albums in ten years, this is the band's first album of completely new material since 2016. Those four years, which include time spent dabbling in his satirical side project, 1 Trait Danger, have seen Toledo undergo seismic changes in both his approach and direction.
Indeed, Toledo considers Making A Door Less Open as not strictly a Car Seat Headrest project, but as a collaboration with his own alter ego, Trait – the gas mask-donning star of his EDM project with Andrew Katz. Of course, the beat-driven influence of the side project is inescapable, but also present on the album are nods to Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie – with notable musical references the latter's 'Blackstar', which CSH have previously covered.
While he's breaking bold, and sometimes strange, new ground sonically, lyrically, Toledo continues to explore ideas of anxiety and existentialism. On the chorus of opener ‘Weightlifters’, he also introduces a theme that rears its head at various points throughout the album – characters waging war against themselves, as they attempt, often in vain, to take control of their reality. It’s a bleak outlook that’s become more relevant than ever under lockdown.
Often these underlying frustrations bubble over into palpable anger – the manically miserable ‘Hollywood’ strips back the facades of celebrity glamour to paint a grim portrait of Tinseltown, with a Hobo Johnson-like delivery that swings between heartfelt spoken word and garage-informed screams.
While the post-genre approach is occasionally jarring, moving from heavy electronica to stripped-back acoustic guitar, Making A Door Less Open's journey is compelling nonetheless. The second half, particularly 'Life Worth Missing' and standout track 'There Must Be More Than Blood', build into something that's surprisingly beautiful amongst the trademark melancholia – offering a sense of hope within the desperation: "There must be more than tears/ When they pull back the curtain/ There must be more than fear."