Car Seat Headrest in the news – 2015

The indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, led by Will Toledo, has had a growing presence in the news media since mid-2015. As one of Will’s biggest fans — and as his father — I decided that this blog would be an appropriate place to start aggregating the reviews and interviews that are appearing online.

Here are links to some of the coverage of the band in 2015:

“His sun-bleached melodies dig deep in the brain while the lyrics offer mid-song meta analysis on the creative process, a director’s commentary on top of his surging lo-fi jams.”

–Dale W. Eisinger in Paper, December 16, 2015

“This is a band to watch.”

–Adam Valeiras in Flood Magazine, December 15, 2015

“What begins as an exploration of Will Toledo’s neuroses builds to a fist-in-the-air anthem to conquer all [in “Something Soon”].”

–Kate Drozynski in “NPR Music’s Favorite Songs of 2015,” December 15, 2015

“He has self-released hours of muted, needling indie-rock songs, and betrays a shameless affection for sunny sixties pop.”

–Night Life column in New Yorker, December 5, 2015

“Riff-heavy, Strokes-like mumbling tracks, such as “Something Soon,” display the songwriter’s gift for intelligent angst…”

–Dutch Godschalk on Ticket, November 30, 2015

“The difference between this situation and every other band ever, is that Car Seat Headrest already had a national audience for many of these releases.”

–Joseph Cardina on Buffablog, November 17, 2015

“Will Toledo has seen his profile rise exponentially…with the release of ‘Teens of Style’…”

–Andy Downing in redeye Chicago, November 12, 2015

“Toledo’s Bandcamp is an impressive archive of material, and there’s no great way to plow through the whole thing efficiently. The closest experience I’ve had is trying to mow down everything Neil Young recorded over 30 years.”

–Mario Aguilar in 20kHz, November 6, 2015

“Toledo is a very witty, self-aware fellow, so the introspection is more like offbeat poetry, set to hooks that deserved to escape the bedroom.”

–Chris Payne in Billboard, November 4, 2015

“While it may seem lazy to compare Toledo’s style to the lo-fi aesthetics and witty wordiness of Matador icons like Pavement and Guided by Voices, his music undoubtedly does touch on a similarly vulnerable vein with his thoughtful stream of consciousness.”

–Dusty Henry in Seattle Weekly, November 3, 2015

“Toledo’s verses are rife with the sorts of teen-age drama that rock was invented to channel.”

–Will Hermes in Rolling Stone, November 2, 2015

“Toledo quickly became one of the most buzzed about artists who played [at CMJ], and although Teens of Style arrives today, listeners already eagerly anticipate the release of Teens of Denial, due out early next year.”

–Emily McDermott in Interview, October 30, 2015

“Toledo’s songwriting has always been his strong suit, and his ruminations on well-worn themes of unrequited love, alienation, and teenage rebellion are spiked with wisdom.”

–Drew Fortune in A.V. Club, October 30, 2015

“His lyrics are rapaciously intelligent and self-aware, but he never lets his prodigious literary intelligence get in the way of crafting enjoyably off-kilter, anthemic rock songs.”

–Jeremy Gordon on Pitchfork, October 28, 2015

“Toledo’s melody lines are the sort of stuff that you want to stay stuck in your head for a long time…”

–Mack Hayden in Paste Monthly, October 27, 2015

“Toledo’s songs are often compared to those of the Strokes, and while they share spiky elements with that band, Toledo’s freewheeling narratives are more akin to those of Courtney Barnett — hilarious, sharp, and whip smart.”

Aquarium Drunkard, October 22, 2015

“Toledo is a master of tonal control, and the way his songs lurch from self-indulgent regret to empowered declarations and then all the way back again is something to behold.”

–Joseph Earp in Renowned for Sound, October 19, 2015

“Will Toledo might be the voice of a very restless and agitated generation.”

–Lindsey Rhoades in The Village Voice, October 12, 2015

“Neil Young + Swans + Dave Matthews Band”

–Will Toledo describing the band in seven words or less in “So You’re Playing CMJ,” September 15, 2015

“Will Toledo’s story is the kind of internet-era fairytale everyone wants to believe in…”

–Cate McGeehee in Noisey, September 11, 2015

“What’s unchanged is Toledo’s sharp songwriting, which perfectly captures the frustration of feeling trapped in your current circumstances.”

–Kyle Kramer in Noisey, September 1, 2015

“Toledo’s songs themselves play out on a grand scale, one that will be fitting for a larger audience.”

–James Rettig in Stereogum, September 1, 2015

“That Toledo has built such a dedicated fanbase over the years, who have followed his hefty release schedule devotedly, is a testament to the aforementioned ability to connect deeply with an audience.”

–Graham Johnson reviewing “How to Leave Town” in Rare Candy, July 27, 2015

“On ‘Teens of Style’, Car Seat Headrest’s Matador debut, even the quietest moments carry with them a sense that Toledo is using every bit of his considerable talent to maintain some kind of holy balance between scuzz and sublimity, effortless melodicism and fractured surfaces.”

–Michael Wojtas in Clash, June 11, 2015

American Suite

In February 1980, KET (Kentucky Educational Television) asked me to record three short videos to be used as fillers in between programs.

In those days, I made music — “composed” is too formal a word — by playing piano improvisations with a tape recorder running. I would listen to the recordings, and if I heard something I liked, I would refine it for a few weeks  until I had something with which I was relatively satisfied.

Not a great system, I’ll admit. I realize now that I needed to work much harder at it to produce music that was really good. Still, there’s something to be said for music that just comes out naturally. This was one piece that didn’t change much after the first time I played it; it pretty much came out in this form, and just sort of meanders from one little melody to another.

By the way, the tux and ruffled cuffs were not my idea, or my style, but I was so happy to have the opportunity to do this that I went along with the producer’s suggestions. And he also asked me to take off my glasses, so any stumbles you hear happened because I couldn’t see the keys. At least, that’s my story.

Faded Coat of Blue

I first heard this recording of “Faded Coat of Blue” on the radio in California, more than 25 years ago. More than any other song I can think of, it has changed my life.

I was captivated by the singer’s voice, and for years I sought to learn more about her. At first, I knew only her name, Betsy Rutherford. I eventually learned that she was from Galax, Va., that she had recorded an album entitled “Traditional Country Music” in 1970, and that she had died in 1991.

This was the first song on Betsy’s only LP, a wonderful album that beautifully showcased her strong voice and smooth singing style. With the support of Betsy’s family, I made this video and posted it on YouTube almost four years ago. I’m pleased to see that it has now been seen by 4,000 people who otherwise might not have heard her music.

Although she didn’t record any other albums, I have been able to track down some recordings of her performances, and I have posted more than 20 of those songs on YouTube. But this was the first, and it remains my favorite.

A mystery no more

“Falling in Love”

I taped this song off the radio in 1982, and had never known who the singer was — until today. It was a mystery to me, and I believe it was that air of mystery that helped make this one of my favorite country-pop songs of the 1980s.

I had been pretty sure the name of the song must be “Falling in Love” (or perhaps “Fallin’ in Love”), for obvious reasons. But searches under that name never turned up this song.

I thought her voice sounded a little like Donna Fargo, but I couldn’t find it in her discography. Just an obscure song by an obscure singer, I had concluded.

Occasionally I would search on a snippet of lyrics from the song, without success. Until today. I tried again, and this time I got hits for a Juice Newton song called “Falling in Love” — and the lyrics matched. So while it might have been an obscure song, it turns out that the singer is pretty well known.

“Falling in Love” was a track from Juice Newton’s 1982 album “Quiet Lies,” and it was written by two of Nashville’s leading songwriters, Wayland Holyfield and Bob McDill. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since McDill, in particular, wrote some of my favorite songs from that era.

I still think it is a little gem of a song, even if the mystery is gone.