Last spring, Will Toledo’s angst-y pop moniker Car Seat Headrest only had a small internet following. Now the 23-year-old Leesburg-born musician, thanks to a signing from Matador Records, is being hailed as one of the best young songwriters around; Rolling Stone compared him to both Brian Wilson and Guided By Voices-frontman Robert Pollard, and Consequence of Sound recently spent close to 1,700 words explaining why Toledo is the “indie rock hero we’ve been waiting for.”
Music-bloggers’ praise aside, Toledo’s project is worth a listen because it doesn’t try to reinvent rock. His songs win you over with catchy melodies and vivid, sometimes repetitive lyrics that burrow in your brain. Take the track “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” from Car Seat Headrest’s upcoming album Teens of Denial (due out May 20). The first half of the song is somber and sleepy, but at the 3:20 minute mark, there’s a sense of catharsis.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” Toledo shouts. It’s the same chords as before, only this time the entire tone of the track has shifted—a small, subtle triumph that makes the listener ponder the spectrum of human emotions.
Listen to “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” below, and consider plumbing through Toledo’s prolific Bandcamp catalogue if you like it. Prior to joining Matador’s stable, he had already self-released 11 full-length albums.
Car Seat Headrest plays the Black Cat on May 23.