Car Seat Headrest

Twin Fantasy

(CD - Matador #OLE 10922)

Review by

Sometimes an artist has to go through more than one draft to get the desired result. Sometimes time and opportunity allow someone to have a new perspective on an older work. Sometimes the thing that didn't work the first time works better the second time. In a very real sense, all of these things do and don't apply to the revised 2018 edition of Car Seat Headrest's album Twin Fantasy. CSH top kick Will Toledo initially wrote the songs for Twin Fantasy in his late teens, and he created a home-recorded version on his laptop that he released digitally in 2011. However, Toledo later declared that he never felt it was a completed work, and in 2016, with access to a professional recording studio and the help of a full band, he re-recorded the song cycle in a manner better suiting the ambitions of the project. In both versions, Twin Fantasy is a concept album about a teenage love affair between two boys that, not unlike CSH's 2016 breakthrough, Teens of Denial, offers a painfully accurate portrait of young-adult attraction that feels powerfully heartfelt without ignoring the terribly awkward perspective of his protagonists. Toledo has said that the songs drew from personal experience, and in both versions, Twin Fantasy hits an emotional bull's-eye, making sense of the intensity of young love as well as the mingled joy and confusion of making your way through a complex web of feelings without a convenient guidebook. In Matador's 2018 reissue of Twin Fantasy, both the 2011 original and the 2016 remake are included, and they're more similar than one might expect despite the differences in production, arrangements, and intensity. The 2011 recording is, as one would expect, relatively lo-fi, with the layers of guitars often pushed into the red and muddying the sound, but despite the relatively sloppy technique, the performances' passion and force are truly compelling. The 2016 remake is certainly more polished, though it's not truly slick, and it feels like a more mature work, which manifests itself in different ways. The arrangements are tighter and better executed, the audio is strong enough to suit the music and its dynamics, and Toledo's performances are more measured but also more nuanced, as if he has a better understanding of this story from a distance of a few years. Either way, Twin Fantasy leaves no doubt that Toledo is a strikingly gifted and thoughtful songwriter, who also has a firm grasp of how to make his material work in the studio and isn't afraid to think on a grand scale.

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