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Car Seat Headrest Blaze With Indie Rock Dynamism on New Album

4.5 Stars

Album art for Car Seat Headrest's "Making a Door Less Open."
Album art for Car Seat Headrest's "Making a Door Less Open." By Courtesy of Car Seat Headrest / Matador Records
By Sofia Andrade, Crimson Staff Writer

Car Seat Headrest’s newest album, “Making a Door Less Open,” is a sweeping blend of genres, all characterized by the same relentless dynamism. Rock ‘n’ roll tradition and techno influence compete throughout the album, rising and crashing into each other in every song. Released on May 1, “Making a Door Less Open” is the indie rock band’s tenth studio album, and a testament to the band’s propensity for musical innovation and burning lyricism.

From the start of the album opener, “Weightlifters,” Car Seat Headrest set up perfectly for the synth-packed album, its discordant mix of vibrant keyboards and rock-fueled guitar riffs drawing listeners deeper into the song. As the song progresses, the lighter drums and ambient synths of the beginning devolve into a frenzied combination of guitars and searing vocals. “Put your heart on the target / They expect you to scream / Music blasts through the market / It's the sound of machines,” lead singer Will Toledo sings as the music builds with a swelling sense of chaos. His light vocals form a striking contrast to the shouting harmonies that overtake them. The song, like much of the album, is one of loss and gain, as the medley of instruments continue to alternate and build onto each other.

The band employs a similar tension in “Can’t Cool Me Down” and “Deadlines (Hostile).” Both find their dynamism in the use of rising and falling melodies, united by constant drum beats cycling under aching vocals and synths in the background. “Deadlines (Hostile),” in particular, showcases Car Seat Headrest’s alternative music influence. The song is loud and loose, a perfect track for driving in the middle of the night with the windows rolled all the way down. Driven by Toledo’s vocals, the whisper-singing of a bored rock star, “Deadlines” sounds like freedom: dangerous and reckless, but also a source of epic catharsis.

Throughout “Making a Door Less Open,” Car Seat Headrest’s members refuse to narrow themselves down to a singular sound. In “Hollywood,” they’re the quintessential rockstars. Grungey guitar riffs open up the song, and from there it only gets rougher. “Hollywood makes me want to puke!” Toledo yells over the raging music, his voice just breaking under its power. With “What’s With You Lately,” on the other hand, the band bares all. For that one song, they ditch the techno-fueled musicality that permeates the album, replacing it with a soft, melancholy acoustic guitar. Toledo’s vocals, too, are replaced with the voice of lead guitarist Ethan Ives. “You’re not the only one that’s angry / You shut the door they call you crazy,” Ives sings over the light fingerpicking, providing a much-needed refresher from the incessant energy of the rest of the album.

With an album full of shorter numbers ranging from one to five minutes, Car Seat Headrest appear to be moving away from the lengthy tracks they’re known for. When they do attempt to pull longer songs off, they do so less successfully. The longest song on “Making A Door Less Open,” the seven-minute “There Must Be More Than Blood,” is perhaps the only piece off the album that leaves something to be desired.The song starts slowly, and though one would expect the ballad to build up into the same complex blend of instruments as the rest of the album, it never does. After the energy and intensity of the preceding songs, “There Must Be More Than Blood” falls short. Still, those seven minutes of mellow musicality serve to provide an important reprieve in the album, a space to savor Car Seat Headrest’s musicianship and Toledo’s soothing vocals.

“Making a Door Less Open”’s closing track, “Famous,” winds the album down with a dissonant mix of disembodied voices and synths reminiscent of the opening song. “Please let somebody care about this,” Toledo sings as the album draws to a melancholy close. With that, Car Seat Headrest wrap up a powerful album, cementing themselves as kings of the indie rock scene.

—Staff writer Sofia Andrade can be reached at sofia.andrade@thecrimson.com.

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