Hit the gas on car seat headrest


Carson Eckert, Staff Columnist

“I wish I was someone else, but it seems too stupid to mention.” —Car Seat Headrest’s

“The Ending of Dramamine” “Sometimes I love you, but it’s hard to say.” —Car Seat Headrest’s

“I Want You To Know That I’m Awake/I Hope That You’re Asleep” “I am living uncontrollably.” —Car Seat Headrest’s

“Beach Life-In-Death”

I don’t know of anything that captures the teenage experience better than these lyrics.

With the rise of rap and hip hop in teenage listening culture and the world’s fascination with solo acts, bands, which used to reign the charts, are less popular.

Enter Car Seat Headrest (CSH), my favorite band of all time and the underrated cure to any teenage angst.

Will Toledo started CSH in Leesburg, Virginia, in 2010 as an independent music project. Will didn’t grow up with a lot of money and didn’t have any experience or connections in the music industry, so he had to write and record the band’s early albums entirely by himself in his car—hence the band name. He released those bodies of work on Bandcamp, a music streaming service; you may remember it from my Mac DeMarco column (see “DeMarco made his mark,” Vol. 50, No. 3).

Will is incredibly impressive because he single-handedly made his dreams of recording music a reality. His work on Bandcamp brought him some initial success, and in 2015, when he signed a deal with Matador Records, his career really took off. He also recruited lead guitarist Ethan Ives and bassist Seth Dalby, and found drummer Andrew Katz on Craigslist; he led the group as lead singer and songwriter. The band’s music can be strange on first listen, but the vulnerability and art in their sound and lyrics are incredible.

The best entry point is CSH’s second studio and 13th overall album, “Teens of Denial.” Since its release in 2016, fans and the larger rock community have celebrated this album and its alternative, well-crafted sound. I consider this album a rock masterpiece.

Something I love about CSH is how the topic of their work is largely focused on the struggles of being a teenager and young adult. In “Teens of Denial,” Toledo writes about isolation, depression, drugs/ alcohol, love, and much more. This album has been comforting for me throughout high school, and I am confident everyone can find something meaningful within the tracklist.

The first song, “Fill in the Blank,” is a great introduction to the band. Its heavy drum beat and loud chorus make this a great song to jam out to. “1937 State Park” is a guitar-heavy, head-banging song. Lastly, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” will give you a look into the more somber side of CSH with its mellow synths, far-away vocals, and lines like, “you build yourself up against others’ feelings, and it left you feeling empty as a car coasting downhill.”

Back in 2011, Toledo wrote and recorded a solo album that later became the fan- favorite: “Twin Fantasy.” He wasn’t satisfied with the album for years until the full band re-recorded the whole thing and released it in 2018. While many core aspects of the original remain, most songs now have more intricate instrumentals and stronger lyrics.

The 2018 version is one of my favorite albums of all time because of its narrative. The songs ruminate on the themes of teenage romance by exploring topics like physical intimacy, social disconnect, and desire. Toledo captures the many stages of a romantic relationship, both good and bad, really well. My first recommendation is the fourth track, “Sober to Death.” This song focuses on the beginning of a relationship and forming bonds, and it showcases the more indie-rock sound of this album. Next, “Cute Thing” is one of the more romantic songs on the album with a nice mix of the sounds from “Teens of Denial” and “Sober to Death.” My last recommendation is “Bodys,” a really fun and lively track that highlights the core ideas of the album like discomfort and intimacy.

My last recommendations dive deeper into CSH’s discography, back to when it was just Will. He released his fifth album under the CSH name, “How To Leave Town,” onto streaming services in 2014. The production on this album is a lot rougher, with heavy distortion on his voice and guitar, and quiet vocals. I love this kind of alternative music because it doesn’t have to follow a certain script or abide by certain standards.

The album similarly deals with the feelings of being a young adult but focuses more specifically on the narrative of not feeling like you belong. My favorite song is “Hey, Space Cadet” because I love the story it tells of facing isolation. Another one to check out is “I Want You to Know That I’m Awake/i Hope You’re Asleep” because of its expressive lyrics about being unable to express yourself, along with soft instrumentals. Lastly, “America (Never Been)” is a great rock song about driving around the country and makes allusions to money and love.

CSH has been there for me through years of dealing with the feelings expressed in their music. I hope they can do the same for you or, at the very least, that you find yourself serenaded with some emotional rock ballads.