Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy

I said “excuse me” to the ocean because I thought I had got in its way. At first I didn’t think it heard me, but then I saw it wave. – America (Never Been)

There are few albums that manage to talk about dogs, galvanism, and God all in one. Between it’s 2011 and 2018 version with all alterations taken into account, Twin Fantasy is nothing short of Will Toledo’s magnum opus. Dreams live and die, and the sexually confused world of a high school graduate tells a coming of age story like no other. One look at the album cover and the mesmerizing hand-drawn image of two creatures hugging each other while somehow bound forever sells itself to the words “twin fantasy”.

You guys got mad skills – I just got mad. – Oh! Starving

The frustration I feel in knowing that no matter how many words I produce writing about this record will do it no justice is a feeling I suspect Will Toledo would manage to encapsulate perfectly. His affinity for “long art films” is evident in all his writing, lyrical and otherwise. He writes coherently – his fabled stream of consciousness – in what seems like a thought-to-paper style of conception. I don’t know if the courage I find in a lot of these lyrics (seeing as how they are very revealing, almost explicitly so) is due in part to the small following he had at the time (thinking not that many people would hear them), or in awareness that times of struggle can bring creative minds to a peak. I would like to believe it’s both. Can you tell I like how Toledo writes?

(Is it the chorus yet?) No. It’s just the building of the verse, so when the chorus does come, It’ll be more rewarding. – Bodys

What makes an album good varies between listeners, of course. An album can be good merely because it is a collection of catchy songs, void of narrative or cohesion. An album can also be good because of it’s concept or story, and both qualities often overlap. A great album, however, is a timeless album. The quality of timelessness is can be very deceiving, though. In fact, I find many aspects of Twin Fantasy to be rather dated. References to technology often break this barrier, and Will Toledo is not afraid to incorporate texting, Skype, and names of other artists in his lyrics. To me, these not-so-subtle nods to contemporary style make or break a piece of art. For Toledo’s purposes however, it’s hard to imagine a song like Beach Life-In-Death without mentioning these creations. The 2018 re-release proved that it’s impossible for such references to stay relevant forever. In the time span of 7 years, Will’s inspiration shifted from Dan Bejar to Frank Ocean, and from John Entwistle to James Brown (as per Cute Thing). While I’m certain this is true, it goes a lot deeper than Will just having a change of heart. The significance of each name corresponds with the year they were mentioned. If it were up to Will, he might release a new version of Twin Fantasy every couple years just to accommodate this. But this review isn’t about Face to Face or Mirror to Mirror, it’s about Twin Fantasy.

Will they play the music I like? Or will everyone be hovering around the iPod trying to put on their playlist? – Sleeping With Strangers

To answer my question, it won’t be long before an out of context lyric from Twin Fantasy makes a fool of itself. As far as I’m concerned, it has likely already happened. Thankfully, the record isn’t about Skype or Frank Ocean. Frankly, it isn’t about God, galvanism, or dogs either. Anything iconic about this album is nothing more than a concept manipulated by Toledo to serve as a metaphor in his own world, and their memorability is born from their absurdity and rhetoric. He doesn’t say “I want to impress you”, instead he whines in desire for a better voice and stage presence, using icons the listener might be familiar with in order to build that bridge of relatability.

This is the part of the song where I start to regret writing it. – Nervous Young Inhumans

There’s a reason that these narrative concept albums rise to the top. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel is another phenomenal piece, so jarringly different to Twin Fantasy in presentation yet strikingly similar in foundation. While singer/songwriter Jeff Mangum uses strings of words that have no practical application together to illustrate imagery alluding to a theme, Will sort of cuts out this middle man and recalls a story through his eyes, event by event. Mangum has said himself (in what is as clichΓ© as can be) that Aeroplane is about whatever you want it to be. It is no secret that the record is a product of Mangum’s connection and borderline obsession with the Diary of Anne Frank, but he doesn’t take 3 minutes at the end of a song to thoroughly explain a concept he introduced; it’s beauty is in its vagueness and mystery, and majority is left to the listener’s interpretation. Twin Fantasy on the other hand, literally takes its time to be concise. Track lengths exceed standard runtimes, and both versions last for around an hour. The main difference is that Aeroplane is a story derived from a memoir, and Twin Fantasy is the memoir itself. The lyrics aren’t just sentimental fragmented memories in the past, connected to something in the past – they’re happening in the present, like a movie. Hitting play and hearing the distant pulse of percussion on My Boy is like turning the first page.

If you really want to know yourself, it will come at the price of knowing no one else. – Cosmic Hero

My favorite part about Twin Fantasy is that it knows what it is. It’s easy for Will Toledo to reach out to his demographic, because he is his demographic. The music he makes and the lyrics he writes are reflective of his thoughts and experiences. He doesn’t have to worry about appealing to anyone as long as he appeals to himself. I realize that makes his creative process sound transparent, almost elementary and a no-brainer, but I would argue self-awareness is the most important trait anyone could have. The band’s other two record label releases are titled Teens of Style and Teens of Denial, and majority of the content from Car Seat Headrest addresses teenage angst consciously. He tackles tropes such as depression and heartbreak, but in a way that doesn’t make them the driving force of the record. Rather, what brings Twin Fantasy to life is that notorious angst, channeled towards those ideas that are so prevalent in the life of a 19 year old; he acknowledges their existence, and laments in his inability to take care of them, and that’s where Twin Fantasy sets itself apart from most ’emotional-wreck’ albums.

Because I look into your eyes like a deer looks into headlights. – Stoop Kid

There are few feelings, if any, that are similar to relating to a lyric. That’s what the beauty of Twin Fantasy comes down to. For some people it’s hard enough to even identify a problem in their life. It’s another battle to find the courage to share it, and immensely difficult to share it with a shred of clarity, or lack thereof. The album, after all, is no more than a fantasy. The juxtaposition of lucidity and unreachable aspiration allows for enjoyment through more than just relating to a lyric. Twin Fantasy is philosophical, private, personal, and a testimony to the past, present and future. While it is Toledo’s most ambitious and grandiose project, his opus, it serves as one for all that it connects with. Twin Fantasy is a not a record you listen to, it’s a record you live in – terrorized and enchanted by the breaking of a fourth wall. It’s What an Audience Wants.


written by oliver
thank you tj for probably being my #0 fan


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