Car Seat Headrest started in 2010 as the DIY project of Will Toledo, named for his habit of recording in his car. Over the next three and a half years, Toledo would self-release 8 LPs, including Twin Fantasy (2011), which quickly gained a cult following. In 2015, Will Toledo expanded his lineup upon signing to Matador Records and the following year released Teens of Denial, his first album of new music since signing. Teens of Denial was met with widespread critical acclaim, and, as a result, Car Seat Headrest’s audience expanded greatly beyond the cult of Bandcamp fans Toledo had already amassed. After the immense success of Teens of Denial, Toledo’s choice to do a complete re-record of Twin Fantasy rather than release new music may be unexpected, but it’s completely welcome to those who love Twin Fantasy.
The original Twin Fantasy, containing some of my favorite Car Seat Headrest songs such as “Sober To Death” and “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)”, was always introspective and clever with recurring themes and ten-minute anthems, but it lacked refinement and mastery simply because of the DIY nature of its recording. For so long Car Seat Headrest was marked by a low fidelity aesthetic, and while that was part of the charm of Twin Fantasy, its reissue increases the listenability of the album by cleaning up its once muddled melodies. The best moments in Twin Fantasy, from the complicated narrative and musical suspense of “Beach Life-in-Death” to the incorporation of “Sunburned Shirts”, originally found on My Back Is Killing Me Baby, into “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)”, are all improved upon in Toledo’s second attempt, finally free from the limitations of self-releasing.
One of the most notable transformations is in the album’s second-to-last song. “Famous Prophets (Stars)”, given the parenthetical “(Minds)” in 2011’s version, was extended from ten minutes to a 16-minute behemoth. Toledo showcases much more dynamic range upon re-recording, starting softer and growing more sharply and intensely. He also ditches the vocal distortion and executes the most significant lyrical rewrite on the album. The song features a new ending, citing “My Boy” in a transcendent outro and ending with a spoken bible verse. The addition of the bible verse is fascinating on an album that explicitly and frequently refers to sexuality and even Toledo’s experiences with coming out (he sings “I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my friends” on “Beach Life-in-Death”).
Car Seat Headrest’s remake of Twin Fantasy exhibits Will Toledo’s remarkable growth from where he began in 2010. Though Car Seat Headrest fans have been deprived of something brand new, it’s impossible to be disappointed when Toledo has expertly delivered a fantastic reiteration of a well-loved album. I’m eagerly anticipating Car Seat Headrest’s next release because brilliance is a pattern for Will Toledo.