Recommend if you like: Courtney Barnett, Neutral Milk Hotel, NOFX

Expectation: Car Seat Headrest is an indie rock band created by Will Toledo. Toledo released 12 albums to Bandcamp under the name before putting together a full group and creating Teens of Denial, his first album to be recorded in a studio and produced by someone other than himself.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • Fill In the Blank – It’s rare for teenage angst to make sense, and that is exactly the idea which Toledo explores in this song, perhaps the best teen angst anthem of 2016.
  • Vincent – Good slow builds are way too rare, so that’s a nice touch. Solid performances from the rhythm section carry the song, and the brass is implemented very appropriately into the peak of the song’s rise-and-fall structure.
  • Destroyed By Hippie Powers – Fitting somewhere between Modest Mouse and Grouplove, but with more energy than either of those bands have delivered in several years.
  • Drugs With Friends – A very nice, soothing song describing a very anxious drug trip. Toledo once again tackles a cliche topic (new experiences as a teenager) in a way that feels worthwhile.
  • Not What I Needed – Not a bad song, just one that gets lost in the mix due to the more memorable songs around it.
  • Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – There are definitely some strong ‘1979’ vibes coming from parts of this song, but there are also enough original ideas that any resemblance is sure to be coincidental. Other than that, its just a straightforward but effective rock song.
  • 1937 State Park – Another song that is fine on its own, but just less interesting than others the album has to offer.
  • Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An) – Some pretty good guitar riffs here, which is great since the riffs make or break a song like this.
  • Cosmic Hero – I think I would have preferred for this song to stay at the softer dynamic rather than building to something louder, but its still pretty good. The riffs are nice, the lyrics are decent, and even the loud section sounds good, regardless of what I want.
  • The Ballad of the Costa Concordia – A clever metaphor (just go read the Genius page) and a great example of how to structure a long song. Each section accomplishes what it needs to, then moves on, with very little fat that  could be trimmed.
  • Connect the Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra) – Another loud, energetic rock song that is a bit too long but still pretty good.
  • Joe Goes To School – A simple little acoustic track that sounds nice, but either could have developed itself more and explored the acoustic side to the band’s sound to reach a more conclusive ending, or could have built into an explosive finale. Instead, it just ends a bit disappointingly considering the length of the project.

Overall: An album with a cohesive sound that isn’t a concept album, yet remains engaging for almost every moment of its 70 minute run time is no minor accomplishment. Teens of Denial is a very strong rock album, with a plethora of great guitar riffs, a consistent and appropriately paced rhythm section, and the best angst 2016 has to offer. You won’t hear anything here that hasn’t been done a hundred times before, but you will hear it done better.

Score: 7.5/10

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