Sit Down Young Stranger – Gordon Lightfoot

10 albums that shaped my musical tastes and styles

The singer-songwriter movement blossomed in 1970 with the release of three of my all-time favorite albums: Sweet Baby James by James Taylor, Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens, and Sit Down Young Stranger (aka If You Could Read My Mind) by Gordon Lightfoot.

Of the three, Lightfoot’s album is probably the one that influenced my own musical taste and songwriting style the most. Looking back on my own comparatively feeble attempts at writing music in the 1970s and early 1980s, I can see his influence in my melodies and song structure. And his song “Your Love’s Return” is subtitled “Song for Stephen Foster,” a salute to one of my greatest musical heroes.

Lightfoot’s songs simply sound good to me. Bob Dylan, also a fan of his music, was once quoted as saying that when he heard a Lightfoot song he “wished it would last forever.”

Favorite tracks: The Pony Man, Minstrel of the Dawn, Sit Down Young Stranger, Your Love’s Return, If You Could Read My Mind

Days of Future Passed – The Moody Blues

10 albums that shaped my musical tastes and styles

I remember the first time I heard “Tuesday Afternoon” by the Moody Blues on AM radio, and wondering about the strange-sounding instrument that helped give the song its dreamy, hypnotic quality.

Later, a classmate informed me that the Moody Blues were a rock band that had joined with a symphony orchestra to produce the album Days of Future Passed. My background was in classical music, so this piqued my interest. I bought the single version of “Tuesday Afternoon,” and eventually purchased the full album after hearing the extended version of the song on FM radio.

The album did not disappoint. It turned out that the strange sound I couldn’t identify came from a mellotron, a keyboard that had been created before the advent of the synthesizer to mimic the sound of a symphony orchestra.

One of the intents behind this concept album — a day in the life of everyman — was to seamlessly weave symphonic interludes between the rock songs and ballads, with the mellotron producing the symphonic sound during the songs themselves. It wasn’t exactly seamless, but it made for an interesting album.

The Moody Blues went on to create a string of six additional classic albums (without the orchestra) between 1968 and 1972, in which the band members wrote all the songs and played all the instruments themselves. I recall a quote from one of them that they were trying to create music for the head and the heart, and their ambitious albums certainly resonated with me.

Days of Future Passed is nowhere near my favorite Moody Blues album — that would be Every Good Boy Deserves Favour — but it opened the door to the band that was, and still is, my favorite rock group from that era.

Favorite tracks: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday), Nights in White Satin

Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel

10 albums that shaped my musical tastes and styles

This album was my gateway to pop music. I had been raised with classical music — piano lessons, band and orchestra — and didn’t listen to Top 40 radio until the summer after 8th grade. (I did like the Beatles, however, and my favorite group was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.)

I had a Tijuana Brass album on my birthday list, and my older sister gave me one, along with this unasked-for album by Simon & Garfunkel. But the latter album was so interesting, unusual and different from anything I had heard before, that it became the one I listened to more.

“Mrs. Robinson,” with its strange lyrics and instrumentation, hit the charts that summer. I started listening to Chicago’s WLS radio, and discovered that a.m. DJ Clark Weber played “Mrs. Robinson” at the same time every morning, a few minutes after my alarm went off. This drew me in, and I started listening to WLS and WCFL in just about every spare moment.

I loved the intelligent lyrics and sweet harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel’s songs, and still do. Most of my favorite songs of theirs are on other albums: “The Sound of Silence,” “I Am a Rock,” “For Emily, Wherever I may Find Her,” “Homeward Bound,” “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Song for the Asking,” etc. But the bittersweet song “America” from Bookends may be my favorite of all.

Favorite tracks: America, Fakin’ It, Old Friends

(Moving) – Peter, Paul & Mary

10 albums that shaped my musical tastes and styles

I’ll never forget a couple of things my Dad brought home when I was young: our first Chicago tavern-style (thin crust) pizza, topped with Italian sausage and cut into squares — still my favorite kind of pizza — and this album by Peter, Paul & Mary.

Until then, our family record library consisted mostly of old pop standards, big bands, classical and Broadway show soundtracks such as “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot.”

This album seemed new and fresh, and I was immediately drawn to it. Favorite tracks are “Settle Down,” written by Mike Settle of the New Christy Minstrels and the First Edition; “Gone the Rainbow,” based on the traditional Irish song “Siúil a Rún”; “A-Soalin,'” which is on my Christmas playlist; and “This Land is Your Land,” my introduction to Woody Guthrie.

Car Seat Headrest in the news – April 2020

“Will Toledo has a special talent, creating engaging narratives that provide a unique perspective to the human experience.”

–Matty Pywell on Gigwise, April 28, 2020

“Album Of The Week: Car Seat Headrest Making A Door Less Open

–James Rettig on Stereogum, April 28, 2020

“As one of the most genuinely interesting faces in indie rock to recently emerge, Car Seat Headrest have been gaining an increasing level of traction due to their assertive lo-fi sounds and frontman Will Toledo’s unusually intriguing voice and compelling lyrics. “

–Cameron Wright on Narc. Magazine, April 28, 2020

“Make up your own phrase for this new sound, or let it stay unspoken and ambiguous; either way, don’t go into it expecting anything at all, because this album will surprise you with every new hook and riff.”

–Frankie Hendricks on Alt Revue, April 28, 2020

“It’s some of the most infectiously multifarious material Car Seat Headrest have ever released.”

–Gary Walker in Guitar Magazine, April 21, 2020

“Seamless melds of indie guitars and electronic pop, stuffed with spry choruses and poetic self-castigation… MADLO’s higher-fi moves demand wider attention.”

–June edition of MOJO Magazine, April 21, 2020

“Will Toledo rails against Hollywood in latest song from ‘Making a Door Less Open'”

–Alex Gallagher on NME, April 17, 2020

“The warped, jerky synth-rock of Hollywood will take its place on Will Toledo’s new record ‘Making A Door Less Open’, which is out on May 1 through Matador, promising a left turn in to experimental terrain.”

–Huw Baines on Stereoboard, April 17, 2020

“Blessing us today, Car Seat Headrest have unleashed the latest taste of their upcoming new album ‘Making A Door Less Open,’ sharing new track ‘Hollywood.’”

DIY, April 16, 2020

Car Seat Headrest have shared the latest song from the new album Making a Door Less Open.”

–Evan Minsker on Pitchfork, April 16, 2020

“[Will Toledo] has further teased the record with a song called ‘Hollywood,’ which isn’t exactly laudatory about its namesake place.

–Derrick Rossignol on Uproxxx, April 16, 2020

“It’s a no-nonsense tune that features familiar heavy riffs, a big hook and heavy grooves.”

Spin, April 16, 2020

“‘Hollywood makes me want to puke’ is thrown at you with the velocity of a home run.”

–Matty Pywell on Gigwise, April 16, 2020

“CSH tapped Sabrina Nichols to helm the video for ‘Hollywood.’ The visual features an animated Trait, Toledo’s masked alter ego.”

–Nate Todd on JamBase, April 16, 2020

“The music video follows frontman Will Toledo’s alter ego in animated form, Trait, who is heavily featured on the album.”

–Natalia Keogan on Paste, April 16, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest isn’t holding back on their new song ‘Hollywood,’ which arrived today with a video directed by Sabrina Nichols.”

–Dustin Heidt in Variance Magazine, April 16, 2020

“[Will Toledo] channels a similar spirit of revision with his latest record, Making a Door Less Open, which has two takes: one recorded as a traditional rock band, and another built around synthesizers and sequenced sounds (as heard on lead single Can’t Cool Me Down).”

Pitchfork’s “25 Most Anticipated Albums of Spring 2020,” April 1, 2020

Car Seat Headrest in the news – March 2020

“With their highly-anticipated new album set to arrive in the coming months, Car Seat Headrest have now unveiled the next cut to be lifted from their forthcoming full-length.”

–Chris Bound on Mystic Sons, March 24, 2020

“The chorus of the track is dominated by gorgeous harmonies that we’ve come to expect from Car Seat Headrest, inter spliced with notably off-beat snare underneath a driving rhythm. Oh and there’s some trumpet for good measure!”

–Zanda Wilson on Music Feeds, March 24, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest Will Boost Your Mood With New Song ‘Martin'”

–Nina Corcoran on Consequence of Sound, March 23, 2020

“Martin is a joyful, jangly guitar-driven pop track from their upcoming album, ‘Making A Door Less Open,’ a collaboration between band leader Will Toledo and 1 Trait Danger, an electronic side project made up of Toledo and drummer Andrew Katz.”

–Jon Stickler on Stereoboard, March 23, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest Share Lyric Video for New Song ‘Martin'”

–Christopher Roberts on Under the Radar, March 23, 2020

“[Will Toledo] appears in the lyric video as his alter-ego Trait, washing the dishes — an appropriate activity during these pandemic times.”

–Claire Shaffer in Rolling Stone, March 23, 2020

“Songwriter Will Toledo declares the track one of the favorite songs he’s ever written.”

–Janice Headley on KEXP, March 23, 2020

“Toledo, the bandleader, is the computerised protagonist of the lyric video, washing dishes as his poignant words flash on the screen.”

–Jack Whatley on Far Out Magazine, March 23, 2020

“The song itself is a bouncy pop track that sounds a bit more realized than its predecessor, if not quite to the stadium-reaching peak of his recent pair of Teens LPs.”

–Mike LeSuer on FLOOD Magazine, March 23, 2020

“Bursting out of its seat with a startling assault of acoustic guitar, the track maintains 100 metre sprint pace before mellowing out in the final third, adding vibrant brass instrumentations that float along like butterfly wings.”

–Matty Pywell on Gigwise, March 23, 2020

“Accompanied by a lyric video that sees leader Will Toledo taking on the character ‘Trait,’ the uplifting pop song is described by Will as ‘one of the favorite songs that he’s ever written.'”

DIY, March 23, 2020

“The song is skittering and grounded by acoustic guitar and Toledo’s distinctive swallowed-up vocals.”

–James Rettig on Stereogum, March 23, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest have shared a new track from their forthcoming album Making a Door Less Open.”

–Matthew Strauss on Pitchfork, March 23, 2020

“For us — and other CSH fans, I’m sure — 1 Trait serves as an immediate mood picker-upper. “

–Angel Pleasant & Dominiki Kurz in The Wellesley News, March 5, 2020

Car Seat Headrest in the news – Feb. 2020

“Check out the sparse, yet energizing music video for Car Seat Headrest’s single “Cool Me Down,” then check out the details of Making A Door Less Open and the single artwork for “Can’t Cool Me Down,” along with the band’s tour dates.”

–Natalia Keogan on Paste, Feb. 26, 2020

“…as Trait/Toledo yowls about a heat that won’t be extinguished, his intense devotion to craft burns bright enough for anyone to see.”

–Marc Hogan on Pitchfork, Feb. 26, 2020

“Arising from Toledo’s attempts to change up how he was writing, Making A Door Less Open was heavily influenced by electronic experiments with CSH drummer Andrew Katz under the name 1 TRAIT DANGER.”

–Ryan Leas on Stereogum, Feb. 26, 2020

“Clocking in at five minutes, ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’ features shimmering synths and frontman Will Toledo’s falsetto.”

–Angie Martoccio in Rolling Stone, Feb. 26, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest Announces ‘Making A Door Less Open’ With A Mold-Breaking Single”

–Derrick Rossignol on Uproxx, Feb. 26, 2020

“Despite the electronic vibe, you still hear the rasp in lead singer Will Toledo’s voice that grounds it back to the band’s roots.”

–Emily Tan on Spin, Feb. 26, 2020

“The band recorded the new album twice: once live with guitars, drums and bass, and once in a MIDI environment using purely synthesised sounds.”

–Sam Moore on NME, Feb. 26, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo and band) have announced a new album, Making a Door Less Open, and shared its first single, ‘Cool Me Down.'”

–Christopher Roberts on Under the Radar, Feb. 26, 2020

“‘Can’t Cool Me Down’ is a genre-blending departure from Car Seat Headrest’s usual lo-fi indie rock sound. Frontman Will Toledo retains his signature matter-of-fate lyricism as he sings about performance anxiety, but this time he’s accompanied by new synthetic sounds.”

–Ingrid Angulo on Hot Press, Feb. 26, 2020

Making a Door Less Open marks the project’s first LP of new music since 2016’s Teens of Denial, and it’s also the introduction of a new persona for frontman Will Toledo.”

–Janice Headley on KEXP, Feb. 26, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest Announce New LP “Making a Door Less Open,” Share First Single”

Flood Magazine, Feb. 26, 2020

“Car Seat Headrest announce new album, touring w/ Twin Peaks (listen to ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’)”

Brooklyn Vegan, Feb. 26, 2020

“It’s somewhat humbling to walk into a falling-apart Subway and see two of your favorite musicians sitting at a table eating a pre-gig meal…”

–Joseph Patella on WVAU (American University), Feb. 18, 2020

Car Seat Headrest in the news – Nov. 2019

A Conversation with Will Toledo and An Appreciation for Car Seat Headrest

–Katie Ingegneri on medium.com, November 22, 2019

“Making such a poignant point out of such disparate concepts — all tucked into such a rollicking track — takes some fascinating genius.”

–Ben Kaye on Consequence of Sound, “Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s,” Nov. 12, 2019

“Few indie rock bands of this type have ever sounded this good wherever they go.”

–Steven Edelstone in Paste Magazine’s “20 Best Live Acts of the 2010s,” November 12, 2019

… “[Commit Yourself Completely’s] quality could just come down to the fact that CSH are a wonderful live band that are exceptional at what they do.”

liamthemusicreviewer, Nov. 11, 2019