Twin Fantasy (2011) by Car Seat Headrest

Have I already reviewed this album? Kind of, but not really. This album is the epitome of a love album, almost entirely focusing on the confusing, painful, and critical relationship that defined frontman (and at the time soul band member) Will Toledo’s college years.

Like I said in my previous review of this album, in 2018 Car Seat Headrest put out a reimagining of their 2011 album. This is the original album from 2011, pressed for the first time on vinyl for Black Friday 2018. There are a good number of differences, including hearing a cover of the original. Mostly, here we see Will Toledo at his peak of Lo-Fi/DIY sound with quiet vocals and muffled Guitar. The sound is generally messy and amateur sounding; however, when contrasted with his incredible lyricism and multi-instrumentalism, it is easy to look past it.

 

At its heart, Twin Fantasy is all about the sexual confusion during college years. A lot of the heart of this album concentrates on a relationship he had with another man that impacted the both of them. “My Boy” and “Those Boys” on the beginning and ending tracks refer to Will, as well as another man, and how their relationship ended but was still important to who they are now, forever intertwined in the past.

I remember soon after the announcement of the 2018 version in January of last year, I began listening to the old one. I immediately connected with the themes of loneliness, depression, and confusion. I began to feel what he felt. This album can transpose emotions like no other. The struggle of being on your own for the first time is one a lot of people can relate to, but it takes a skilled storyteller to connect the listener to those emotions in such a personal manor.

The opal of this album is the thirteen minute “Beach Life-In-Death” right after the opening track. This ballad starts out describing a time where our narrator says goodbye to this special person. Toledo does this in excruciating detail, talking about the road signs and the train, and even him leaving the station after saying goodbye.

Toledo is known for changing up lyrics. In live performances and single editions of a few songs, he includes alternate verses that sound improvisational, yet still fit as if they were meant to be there.

The difference between Mirror to Mirror (2011) and Face to Face (2018) isn’t night and day, but a noticeable change is in the lyrics. An important one often brought up is in “Nervous Young Inhumans” where he talks about the character being Galvanistic during the chorus. This leads cleanly into a monologue at the end about why he chose to use that phrase.

The appeal to early “Beach Life-In-Death” was partly how raw it was. The ending of the track fizzles out into distorted oblivion with a glitched “We’re too scared to do shit” which we also see in the gatefold art. A break on the newer version includes “It was the start of nothing new” played backwards. Here, we see a lyric about how a piece of art corrupted him and left him in a state of “late-stage youth”, a key part of their relationship.

The last difference I want to point out, because there are too many, is “Famous Prophets” towards the end. Several lines were added and removed, including parts about being stuck in your body, and a rant about the pain the relationship put him through in a metaphor about God and punishing him for being in a gay relationship. The end of the track leaves us with a bible verse, much as the new version, but it’s different verse.

The gatefold is especially interesting to me. On this 2011 version, we see in faded letters the quote from “Beach Life-In-Death”, “WE’RE TOO SCARED TO DO SHIT”. Opposite of it sits an illustration by Cate Wurtz, depicting a funeral for a casket with “BEACH FAG IS DEAD” painted on it, a reference to another lyric. It’s surrounded by seven people in hoods that look identical and candles are placed randomly. This contrasts with the 2018 gatefold, where we see another graveyard, but the dreary darkness is gone, and there’s flowers left at a grave. The opposite side has a long list of people being thanked for their help and influence on this album.

This speaks to the rawness Toledo felt towards the relationship and how it ended, like an aggressive funeral filled with angst and spray paint cans (also pictured). Compare that to him revisiting all the pain and the wounds, and seeing it in a new light. On Face to Face we see this in the graveyard that’s bright and clean, symbolizing the wounds have, for the most part, healed. This change is best described in a line from “Famous Prophets” at the beginning, “Twin bruises on my shins, from where I kicked the back of the seat in. They meant what I went through for you. But now they are faded. now they are gone.”

And yes, I did get the white vinyl version. Yes, it’s great. Yes, you should get it yourself.

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