ALBUM REVIEW: Car Seat Headrest successfully change the way they write music with ‘Making A Door Less Open’


Car Seat Headrest are a band known for their bold, cynical and at times straight up amusing work. One thing that is always on offer is a free ride through frontman Will Toledo’s psyche, however this time around the band have worked hard to change the packaging. Making A Door Less Open was written between projects from 2015 to 2019, it is a collection of vague and varying ideas the band worked hard to develop into full length songs. Toledo stated he wanted to write his songs in sync with how he was listening to them, and that brought focus to giving each individual song a unique energy as opposed to one cohesive album with a clear identity running through it. Toledo described each song has an intense battle to bring out it’s natural colours, transforming it into a complete work.

[Will] wanted to write his songs in sync with how he was listening to them, and that brought focus to giving each individual song a unique energy.”

Car Seat Headrest achieved their goal as far is this mission statement goes with the project captivating us from start to finish. On first listen you can never allow your attention to waver for a second, as there is no mood to mellow into, no mesh of sounds and easy listen. Making A Door Less Open requires your upmost attention and it wins it over with ease. Weightlifters is the perfect opener as the retained synth note works as a siren (that somehow isn’t annoying) which everything else just seems to build perfectly from. Deadlines has two versions on the album, both a hostile and thoughtful format, and both tracks are album highlights. Deadlines (Thoughtful) in particular is the type of exploration that really makes this type of album worthwhile. It’s a pensive, layered track – “oh compassion, it’s transforming me in two”. Is this self referencing the need for both a hostile and thoughtful take of the same song? Either way this is self-confliction recorded into a beautiful harmony leaving the listener struggling along with Toledo to draw the line between the preference over a hostile and thoughtful approach.

“[Hollywood] is the most Car Seat Headrest track on the whole album. It’s all there, it’s just been given a unique twist.”

Hollywood, the third single, comes at you more like a One Trait Danger track – a satirical side project by the band with similar style vocals. This track is wildly different and will prove to be potentially divisive for fans. However, what’s on offer is some the albums most amusing quips accompanied by a hypnotic, unforgettable riff. They groan out the lyrics “everyone’s an artist but no one has the time… everywhere I go I’m oppressed by these energies” with an amusing quality.  This jokey nature seems to be continued in the forthcoming hook “Hollywood makes me wanna puke!” as the song seems almost self-aware that It comes off a tad over the top. Toledo still doesn’t forget to work in tougher lyrics such as “waking up in bed with big producers… I can make you famous you know nothing this is nothing!” These lyrics even make the listener feel a strong blend of queasy and a bit pissed off. Despite sounding completely different sonically from earlier Car Seat Headrest, it manages to work in a captivating guitar riff, spoken word, witty quotable lyrics while making a thoughtful point about a tricky subject that’s got Will all riled up. In these aspects it is the most Car Seat Headrest track on the whole album. It’s all there, it’s just been given a unique twist.

It wouldn’t be a Car Seat Headrest album without a 8 minute track. They’re a strange band in that just the length of this song will excite fans to suggest it could be a highlight as some of the bands popular, denser tracks such as Vincent, Nervous Young Humans etc. exceed the 7 minute mark. Essentially you know what you’re getting into when you’re pressing play on There Must Be More Than Blood, and with great reason. A real album highlight sees a long, but not overplayed, synth build up into whimsical verse and harmonies. Toledo has always had a real lyrical ability in reeling off his thoughts as if it were a soliloquy. The listener is always right there to explore with him, and There Must Be More Than Blood seems as if its written with the intention of unity and relatability in mind as in parts it sounds almost like the national anthem for the exploration of what makes us human.

Life Worth Missing makes you feel like you’re the main character in a movie coming to it’s final act – and its all perfect.”

Life Worth Missing is not just an album highlight but a career highlight. This track is euphoric, deeply wondrous and one that makes you feel a mixture of excitement and pride in being alive. Every lyric is deeply impactful without a word out of place. The verses are some of the best Will has written “Learn to live while falling, every life is a path worth following.. If you could be proud of anything you’ve done, what would it be?”  The song is uplifting and intensely thoughtful. It explores the important message of taking pride in what you do and what you have done, no matter what it is. It’s easy to think there’s something else you should be doing, something that would be more fulfilling or enjoyable. With lyrics such as “It’s comfortingly bland there’s so little left to understand” Toledo reminds us to enjoy the simple pleasures of being alive. Sometimes we are all guilty of getting wrapped up in our thoughts and ambitions and try so hard to escape the bland aspects of life that we forget that there can be not just comfort but beauty in your life. No one has lived your experiences like you have, and you should own that. Life Worth Missing makes you feel like you’re the main character in a movie coming to it’s final act – and its all perfect.

“[Car Seat Headrest] have no interest in following a conventional route and will not rest on their laurels”

Despite the angst brought on prior records written by a younger Toledo titled Teens of Denial, you would never accuse him of being immature. However, growth would seem to be an apt word for this album as in a lot of ways this record has highlighted what we already know about Car Seat Headrest – they have no interest in following a conventional route and will not rest on their laurels. Making A Door Less Open sees a homecoming of multiple new genres being worked into Car Seat Headrest’s sound – ranging from do-wop to EDM. Toledo seems to be drawing from drummer Andrew Katz’ EDM background to bring a larger focus on synths and a far larger focus on production since those grainy Bandcamp recordings that first gained the band notoriety. Although there are parts of this album such as Hymn (Remix) which are a bit of a miss, this is to be expected on a project with variety at its focus. Making A Door Less Open is Car Seat Headrest’s most ambitious project yet and works as a statement that the band will continue to develop and intertwine what made them great to start with new, exciting ideas. It seems that going forward each project will not always be for everyone, but it will always be brave, and always be worth a listen.

8/10 

Out Now

Words:Alex Crowley