Review: Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

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Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) improves on the original in every possible way, whilst keeping its personal charm intact.

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Whilst Car Seat Headrest’s 2016 album Teens of Denial was a powerful ode to the nature of being a teenager, Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is mostly about being one very specific teenager at one very specific time, in love with one very specific person. The record thrives on specificity and detail – but most importantly it considers the effect that time, distance and memory can have on a relationship, and it does so with a finesse few other artists can match.

Twin Fantasy is a re-release of the cult classic 2011 album – now dubbed Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror). This new and updated 2018 version, Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is a glossier and perhaps more experimental version of the album that manages to retain the charm of the original – appealing to new and old fans alike. It retains its personal, intimate nature, but layers on driving guitar riffs, eclectic synths and elaborate spoken-word passages. The album opens with the soaring ‘My Boy (Twin Fantasy)’, a simple but punchy anthem that conveys the tone of what is to come – a short prologue of sorts to the sprawling epic that follows soon after in the 13-minute-long journey of Beach Life-In-Death that delves meticulously into details of relationships, depression and teenage angst. The album continues to push highlight after highlight throughout its runtime, such as the weighty acoustic guitar and delicate vocal delivery on ‘Sober To Death’ to the glam-tinged rock of ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’. These shorter songs are going to please both old and new fans – retaining the fragile vocals and quirky nature of the original whilst packing the same punch as the highly charged belters from Teens of Denial.

It’s the longer songs, however, that push Twin Fantasy from being a good album to a truly great one. There is a trilogy of sorts that ends the album in ‘High To Death’, ‘Famous Prophets (Stars)’ and ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)’, each providing huge amounts of lyrical detail and experimentation for long-time fans to unpick and new listeners to ponder over. There are repeated motifs, drawn-out spoken word passages and multi-stage songs that paint a vivid picture of how frontman Will Toledo views both himself and the relationship depicted within the album, after 7 years to reflect. Listening to the old and new album consecutively creates a strange doubling effect –  the listener understands that the 19-year-old version of Will in 2011 created an album based in a fantasy version of a relationship –  and once he confronts this truth with the benefit of time, he finally understands, coming ‘face to face’ with who he is, and why it didn’t all work out in the end. This is beautifully summarised in the ending track ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)’ in which the repeated lyric of “I haven’t looked at the sun in so long / I’d forgotten how much it hurts to” tells the listener all they need to know. At first hiding from the reality, Will only now understands the relationship for what it was, and this realisation is a freeing one, the track spiralling upwards, with booming drums and wheezing organ in tow. Interestingly, this lyric is interpolated from an earlier song from an earlier album, ‘Sunburned Shirts’ in Teens of Style. The album is full of moments like this, and each is a testament to the relatability of Will’s songwriting – the words stick in the mind across songs, albums and time.

Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is a near-perfect album, a recreation of a fan favourite that manages to be as dynamic as it is faithful – and, along with the 2011 version, the perfect documentary of love and loss.

Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is out now via Matador Records

 

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Music reviewer and real human being. Loves anything that can have the word 'alternative' tacked onto it somewhere.

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