Crafting moody and introspective lo-fi pop tunes that are melodic but structurally ambitious at once, Car Seat Headrest is the moniker used by musician and songwriter Will Toledo.
Toledo grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he learned about music theory while playing in the student symphonic band in junior high and high school. Toledo majored in English in college, but he was fascinated with music, embracing an eclectic variety of artists from Radiohead, Modest Mouse, and R.E.M. to Animal Collective and Swans, and he began writing songs on his computer, using its built-in microphone and the recording software that was bundled with the machine. While Toledo's recording setup became more advanced with time, he continued to prefer simpler solutions to recording problems, and his project became known as Car Seat Headrest when Toledo discovered he was more comfortable recording vocals in his car than in his home. While Toledo began playing live shows with a rotating team of musicians in Williamsburg (when a reporter asked Toledo about being a fixture on the local scene, he replied, "All that amounts to is being able to play at the local pizza place"), the vast majority of his recordings were cut at home with Toledo handling all the vocals and instruments.
In May 2010, Toledo issued his first Car Seat Headrest album, titled 1, with 2, 3, and 4 all appearing within the next three months; while Toledo would continue to make the first four albums available through his online store, he sheepishly included a warning to potential customers that they were "not very good." December 2010 brought Little Pieces of Paper with "No" Written on Them, which Toledo described as "B-sides and rarities and generally just awful shit," but with March 2011's My Back Is Killing Me Baby, Toledo finally made an album he felt didn't require a warning about its inferior quality, and Car Seat Headrest began winning the attention of critics and lo-fi fans around the world with Twin Fantasy, released in November 2011. The year 2012 brought two more albums, Monomania and Starving While Living, and in August 2013 Toledo released Nervous Young Man. Deciding he needed to break away from the places where he grew up and studied, Toledo left Virginia and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he assembled a new lineup of Car Seat Headrest and continued to busy himself with home recording. October 2014 brought another particularly personal work, How to Leave Town, which earned enthusiastic reviews on the music blogosphere, and led to Toledo signing a deal with Matador Records, who released Teens of Style, featuring new versions of several of Car Seat Headrest's older tunes, in October 2015.
In May 2016, Toledo released an album of new Car Seat Headrest material, Teens of Denial. The album, which melded lo-fi noisemaking with a clean and ambitious production, made music news headlines shortly before its release. One of the album's tracks, "Just What I Needed/Not What I Needed," interpolated a few bars of the Cars' classic "Just What I Needed." At the last minute, Cars frontman and songwriter Ric Ocasek declined permission for Car Seat Headrest to use the excerpt from his song. The initial run of Teens of Denial on vinyl and CD had to be destroyed, but the digital version of the album was released as scheduled, with the problematic track replaced with a reworked version, "Not What I Needed." ~ Mark Deming
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Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Destroyed By Hippie Powers
(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn't a Problem)