As more and more artists make a name for themselves in the music scene today, it is crucial to break away from the mainstream and stand out, which is something that Car Seat Headrest strives for. Originally a solo project constructed by Will Toledo, Car Seat Headrest quickly became a gem within the indie-rock scene. Toledo self-released his first four albums during the summer of 2010, solidifying the style of the musical project, and later introduced other members to create a band. With unique song structures featuring lyrics that convey Toledo’s inner monologue, it is clear that Car Seat Headrest brings a sense of refreshing contrast to the scene. The group’s latest release, Making a Door Less Open, breaks free from the indie-rock sound and lo-fi subtleties that are present in Teens of Denial (2016) and Twin Fantasy (remade in 2018).
Toledo embodies his gas-masked alter ego, Trait, by putting a fresh twist on his classic sonic vision. Deviating from the group’s aesthetic, the twelfth studio album from C.S.H. combines punk rock influences with futuristic eccentricities, along with sprinkles of EDM, disco, and hip-hop. The 11-song project explores the ambiguous trajectory of one’s life and mindset as they get older. Kicking off with “Weightlifters”, a powerful track that speaks on living with a purpose, this album launches the listener into an exploration of life’s uncertainties and frustrations.
On “Can’t Cool Me Down”, guitarist Ethan Ives’s background vocals bring a strong base for Toledo to explore his melodic hooks, while Andrew Katz (drums) and Seth Dalby (bass guitar) provide a steady rhythmic instrumental for Toledo to express his anxieties about where he is in his life. “Hollywood”, another notable track, describes an outsider perspective on the toxicities of the Hollywood lifestyle, featuring vocals from Katz. The aggravated monologue reveals that fame can often be oppressive, and the repeated phrase “Hollywood makes me wanna puke” conveys a sense of exasperation that resurfaces in other tracks throughout the album.
While Making a Door Less Open differs from previous works in a production sense, the familiar style of stream-of-consciousness lyrics remains present, and some features of their indie rock sound persist. The repeated phrase “Change your mind” in the final track “Famous” demonstrates the overarching theme of the project in its entirety, which is that life consists of changing paths, moving on, and the realization that you have the ability to impact others. This message is fitting for Car Seat Headrest, as the record defines new territory for the group as they shift into a different musical direction. The album doesn’t just push boundaries, it shatters them, presenting the listener with opportunities for introspection.