Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) album cover, courtesy of Car Seat Headrest

Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror), Will Toledo’s 2011 independent project under the name Car Seat Headrest, sounds like it was recorded in a basement. But it wasn’t. It was recorded in a closet— the closet of Toledo’s dorm room, to be specific. In 2011, Toledo released 5 albums, but had very little to show for it. He was down on his luck, had just transferred colleges and struggling to fit into a new environment, all the while suffering from anxiety and depression. Through all this, he only had one outlet to channel his stress: his music.

Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) is the result of Toledo’s intense emotional turmoil during this time in his life. It is a concept album, loosely following the story of Toledo’s recent breakup and its aftermath. The lyrics are raw, painting scenes of substance abuse, dark confessions, and depressive episodes.

Will Toledo, photo courtesy of Car Seat Headrest and Matador Records

The standout track on Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) is “Beach Life-in-Death,” a 12-minute, three-part song depicting Toledo’s sad existence in the weeks following his breakup.

In part one, Toledo drives to a spot by the water where he had spent time with his ex. He starts to think about all the times he messed up and begins to spiral. It’s initially very hard to listen to, especially because of how emotionally painful it is, but the track is so beautifully written and extremely impactful on the listener. The incredibly blue lyrics are juxtaposed against a relatively upbeat major chord progression, seemingly symbolizing the difference between how Toledo wants to present himself versus how he really feels. Part two finds Toledo waking up from a dream about his ex. This sends him spiraling yet again and he sings about the cyclical nature of life. He has turned to substance as a way of coping. Part three is more hopeful and depicts Toledo coming to terms with the breakup and trying to move on, but still has a cryptic element embedded in its lyrics. Through the lyrics, Toledo depicts his feelings for his ex as an underwater grave that not even the ocean can unearth, while also alluding to his depression and suicidal thoughts.

The ocean washed over your grave
The ocean washed open your grave

– lyrics from “Beach Life-in-Death” by Car Seat Headrest

“Beach Life-In-Death” exhibits Toledo’s talent as a songwriter and a lyricist. The other standout tracks, “Sober to Death” and “Bodys,” continue the trend of beautiful, yet sad and morbid songwriting. Just from the names of the three standout tracks, one can see that much of Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) revolves around the theme of death.

Toledo Performing Bodys, courtesy of KEXP

Ten years later, Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) holds up as some of Will Toledo’s best work. The themes of breakup, depression, and mental spiraling are just as relatable to young adults now as they were a decade ago. Most fans will try to argue that 2016’s Teens of Denial is a better album, or that the 2018 remake of Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) (which is simply titled Twin Fantasy) is the better version due to the cleaner production and higher budget. I argue the contrary. The DIY nature of Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) and the lo-fi-esque sounds add to the themes of isolation and being down on one’s luck. The rough edges reflect Toledo’s life at the time of recording and his lack of budget makes the product even more impressive.

People will critique Car Seat Headrest as “incel music” and “hipster trash” (real things people have said to me). These people are missing out on the genius of Will Toledo’s lyricism and the beauty of the emotion behind every one of his songs. Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) is still a classic 10 years later and still will be 10 years from now.

Car Seat Headrest heads on tour this spring and will hit Nashville on April 10th at Brooklyn Bowl. In the meantime, listen to Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror) here: