The first new music since 2016’s brilliant ‘Teens of Denial’ (not counting the re-recording of ‘Twin Fantasy’ a couple of years ago), Car Seat Headrest’s latest album may have been four years in the making, but it was well worth the wait. Driven by the genius mind of frontman Will Toledo, ‘Making A Door Less Open’ sees an unusual form of self-collaboration, with the band joining forces with Toledo’s and fellow CSH drummer Andrew Katz’s electronic side project ‘1 Trait Danger’ (Toledo himself donning gas-mask like headgear and adopting the alter ego of ‘Trait’).
As a result, the finished project is a departure from the guitar-dominated albums of CSH past, more space instead being given to synths and drum machines to provide the backing for Toledo’s consistently witty and observational lyricism. The first taste of this comes immediately on album opener ‘Weightlifters’, a long synth drone reverberating out of the silence before the frontman announces “we’re ready to begin”; a message to the listener to prepare themselves for this new era of CSH. Recording the album once with live instruments and once with purely synthesized sounds, before combining the two in the studio, it’s a hybrid that works perfectly, as shown by the infectiously catchy lead single ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’.
Written with an intent to capture the changing ways music is being consumed, Toledo set out less to create an album that resided in one particular theme, but rather 10 tracks that each had something unique within themselves. This comes across when listening to the record, each track drifting off at tangents from one idea to the next, as if we’re being allowed to experience the band’s thought processes as they arrive. Where at one moment we can be subject to the haunting, almost cathartic wailing of Toledo crying out for help (‘Hymn’), the next we can find ourselves listening to a Verve-esque acoustic guitar ballad sung by guitarist Ethan Ives (‘What’s With You Lately’).
These short snippets and moments, create an almost genre-lessness to the record, the band focussing more on expressing an emotion than being weighed down by structure. Toledo has certainly come a long way from writing songs in the back seat of his family’s car, but if trying something different results in this good of an outcome, we can only look forward to seeing what path Car Seat Headrest will choose to explore next.