Double Review: Great releases from Car Seat Headrest and U.S. Girls
Car Seat Headrest - “Twin Fantasy”
The newest music from Will Toledo and company isn’t all that new–it’s a newly mastered, re-recorded and reworked version of his 2011 Bandcamp album “Twin Fantasy”, the record that essentially made him blow up on the internet and get a record deal from the legendary NY indie label Matador. After the critical acclaim of 2016’s “Teens of Denial”, which showed Will taking his music up a few notches and showing off many of his best tunes yet and landed on many a year-end list (including the #2 spot on mine), Matador essentially let Toledo do whatever he wanted with his project. Returning to his older material much like with his Matador debut “Teens of Style”, Toledo has completely updated this new version of his Bandcamp “masterpiece” that was once so raw and lo-fi that you could barely understand his vocals. This time around, the vocals are at the forefront, as Toledo shouts and wails with his signature crackling voice, and gives the ultimate “shy guy” album a fairly confident sound, especially on tracks like the monstrous 13-minute “Beach Life-In Death” (which is miles better than the original). The album’s beats are aggressive, the guitars are heavy and jagged, and the synths give this new recording some real dynamic layer. Highlights like the fun and energetic “Cute Thing”, hypnotic and psychedelic “High to Death”, and Strokes-esque “Bodys” feature some amazing jams and solos, and “Nervous Young Inhumans” and “My Boy” have a new energy and focus that mirrors that of many tracks off of “Teens of Denial”. The album as a whole is fantastic and a huge improvement on the original, not only in its experimentation with added outros to multiple tracks (bringing the album’s run time to a whopping 77 minutes), but its musical influences shine through and some of the tracks prove to be some of Will’s best recordings yet.
Favorite Tracks: “Cute Thing”, “Bodys”, “Beach Life-In Death”, “Nervous Young Inhumans”, "High to Death", "Famous Prophets"
U.S. Girls - “In a Poem Unlimited”
Meg Remy’s newest installment under the U.S. Girls moniker is perhaps her greatest effort yet. It’s also her pop-iest, but that works to her advantage. “In a Poem Unlimited” is a strong delivery of what the indie pop solo act does best–write infectious songs with interesting lyrics and a synth pop edge. Her new album is nothing short of great, as Remy delivers solid song after solid song, flowing nicely with a signature style. The new album even dives into political pop, as she goes into some darker themes about the current state of our country on tracks like “M.A.H.” (Mad As Hell), where she reflects on the Obama administration. The album as a whole isn’t dense in lyrical matter without being incredibly fun and danceable. With the help of many guest songwriters, the tracks strike a balance between being thoughtful meditations, rageful expression, and sticky melodies. The synth leads are incredibly memorable on standouts like “Velvet 4 Sale”, “Poem”, and the impeccably groovy “Time”, which balances scattered free jazz saxophones with raw and fuzzy guitars over a driving beat to close the album on an all time high. Then there’s my personal favorite track, the single “Pearly Gates”, which sounds an awful lot like Nate Dogg and Warren G’s “Regulate”. There’s a change of mood all over the album, especially on tracks like the jazzy “Rage of Plastics”, string section-led “Rosebud”, and lo-fi electronics of “Incidental Boogie”, which find Meg and Co. going into new territory and pull it off with flying colors. Remy sings with incredible poise and passion, making these songs powerful and groovy at the same time, and making the album one of this year’s most consistently great pop records. I find myself returning to it quite often, and don’t see that halting anytime soon.
Favorite Tracks: “Pearly Gates”, “Rage of Plastics”, “Time”, “M.A.H”, "Incidental Boogie", "Velvet 4 Sale"