Seattle band Car Seat Headrest has broken out to a wider audience this year, after years of DIY struggle. The band plays Capitol Hill Block Party Saturday, July 23.
Will Toledo is sick of a lot of things. He’s sick of being asked about the name of his band, Car Seat Headrest (he used to record vocals in the back seat of his car, for privacy). He’s sick of being compared to bands he’s not influenced by. And, perhaps most important, he’s sick of being a negative guy who’s sick of everything.
That said, he has two good reasons to be positive. He’s playing the main stage at Capitol Hill Block Party Saturday (July 23). And his new album, “Teens of Denial,” was released to critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone giving it four stars and Pitchfork Media awarding it a Best New Music seal.
“Teens of Denial” is Car Seat Headrest’s 13th album. From 2010 to 2014, Toledo self-released 11 albums on Bandcamp, amassing an online following. After graduating from college in Virginia in 2014, he moved to Seattle, where he caught the ear of indie label Matador Records, which signed him the following year.
Car Seat Headrest
6 p.m. Saturday, July 23, on the Main Stage at Capitol Hill Block Party, between Broadway and 12th Avenue and East Pine Street and East Union Street, Seattle; Saturday, $60, two-day pass, $100-$110, three-day pass, $150-$300 (capitolhillblockparty.com)
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In a telephone interview last week, Toledo said “Teens of Denial,” which took two years to write and record, is primarily colored by his desire to emulate the “straightforward rock ’n’ roll songwriting” he grew up listening to.
“I think this was the first Car Seat Headrest album where I was really getting back to my roots and pursuing these songs that were largely traditional rock structures,” he said.
Toledo named the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Who as influences. His sound takes elements from each — Lennon-McCartney’s studio experimentation, Brian Wilson’s lyrical introspection, Pete Townshend’s power-pop guitar riffs — and combines them into something wholly original.
His songwriting on the album was also heavily influenced by the feelings of negativity he was grappling with at the time. The recording addresses themes of depression and substance abuse through the eyes of Joe, a character Toledo admitted is partially autobiographical.
“I didn’t want to be the character of Joe, but that’s just where my head was at the time,” he said.
But “Teens of Denial” is more than a monochromatic, jaded affair. Toledo’s lyrics are both funny and relatable, speaking to the concerns of young adults who are figuring out their place in the world, sometimes with a little chemical assistance.
The album affirms that it’s OK to be depressed, it’s OK to be hung over and it’s OK to be sick of it all — Will Toledo has been there.