Car Seat Headrest's album Teen denial shines through lyricism


By Cole Altmayer, entertainment editor
If there is one thing that’s true about every teenager on the face of planet earth, it’s that they are all hormonal little brats. No matter the race, gender, nationality or clique, this is invariably the case. It’s the glue that sticks all of us together, and the stench that keeps our elders in a constant state of resentment.
That being said, I think it’s an atrocity that most of our current popular culture doesn’t really represent that, at least not in a sincere way. Every display of emotion in this day and age has to be punctuated with an LOL because if you don’t, people will assume you’re an emotional wreck.
Intense emotions of jealousy, insecurity, loneliness; all of it can simply be summed up in 140 characters or less and instantly sent out to the masses over Twitter, often with a reaction picture of the latest “flavor of the month” meme attached.
However, indie rock band Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo has taken the sincerity we’ve lost in recent years and turned into musical blunt force trauma; unrelentingly sad yet devastatingly funny. The band’s most recent album, Teens of Denial, is only the latest weapon in a whimsically emotional arsenal.
Denial is the band’s first proper studio album, but it’s far from being Toledo’s first rodeo, as he started Car Seat Headrest initially as a solo project back in 2010, when Toledo was only 18 years old.
The project currently has 12 albums released via Bandcamp, where Toledo experienced his first taste of fame by amassing a cult internet following, due to his relatable and confessional lyricism.
Teens of Denial bears the same teeth and grit as its more DIY, lo-fi predecessors that were recorded in Toledo’s bedroom rather than the recording studio. The instrumentation isn’t anything new or particularly original, owing much of its style to early 90s alt-rock such as Pavement or Weezer, but it builds upon those foundations to create something that sounds like a fusion of Toledo’s early work and the more clean and sleek traditional indie sound.
However, Denial seems to have lost a bit of the rawness and white noise that gave previous albums like the amazing Twin Fantasy a more unique identity.
Lyrically, however, Denial is exceptional, even by Car Seat Headrest standards. Every track has a standout line of Toledo’s neurotic inner dialogues that is more memorable than the last.
“What happened to that chubby little kid who smiled so much and loved the Beach Boys?” Toledo asks himself on “Destroyed by Hippie Powers.” “What happened is I killed that f*****, and I took his name, and I got new glasses.”
Despite the pessimistic and self deprecating lyricism, the tone of the music on Denial varies greatly. It isn’t strictly a “rainy day” kind of sad album; much of Toledo’s lyrics and compositions suggest a more defiant-yet-accepting view of his personal plights.
The track “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” provides a definitive example of this dynamic of Toledo’s mind, portraying the dilemma of a drunk driver who has no other means of getting home; he’s not trying to rationalize or explain away his faults, he’s just trying to find the best way to make do with what he has, even if it could end up being his undoing.
Denial definitely feels like a turning point for Car Seat Headrest. This is both in terms of musicality with the transition from bedroom to studio, but also for Toledo, or at least the character Toledo portrays in his music, as Denial is more honest and more straightforward than anything else in his discography.
Teens of Denial is simultaneously a great name for this album and a horrible name for that reason. Adolescence implies change, but denial implies insincerity, and Denial is Toledo’s most sincere work yet in a world that could use a little bit more sincere emotion.