A Very Car Seat Headrest Christmas

I’ve been avoiding writing about Car Seat Headrest’s masterpiece “Teens of Denial” because a.) it’s impossible to come up with enough good things to say about a record that, no joke, seems to speak so well to the stage of life I’m in yet is enjoyable for anyone (my dad and his friends have been listening to it for months), and b.) EVERYONE into indie music on the internet is putting it atop their end-of-the-year record roundups. It’s a fantastic record, and all I want to say has been said a thousand times in some iteration (and deservingly so).

But I can try. Or at least praise the new single version of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” that graced Spotify a few weeks ago.

I’ll admit that the original version of the song is actually pretty low in my song-by-song ranking of “Teens.” Don’t get me wrong, the first time I heard it I was like “Oh my LORD” (my reaction to basically every song on the record, in particular the 11:30 “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia”), but after listening to the record in it’s entirety on repeat, my favourites are instead dominated by the heartbreakingly blunt “Cosmic Hero,” the punky and defiant “Fill in the Blank,” and the desperately raging “Destroyed by Hippie Powers.”

But I must give credit where credit is due, and “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is what turned me on to “Teens,” along with “Teens of Style”‘s big hit “Something Soon,” which got a lot of airplay on my satellite radio after Car Seat Headrest got signed to Matador Records.

This new version of the tune is much more upbeat, with lyrics that simplify the message of picking yourself up out of a hole of irresponsibility and finding new meaning to life (some of which are borrowed from Toledo’s 2013 song, “Plane Crash Blues (I Can’t Play Piano)”). The backing vocals on the second verse bring to mind a bit of Beach Boys, and for me, the riffs remind me of a more indie-centric, youthful U2 sound. It’s also shorter, clocking in around 4:02 instead of 6:32, making it more radio and festival-friendly.

Personally, I quite enjoy the changes and find the song to be delightful-it gets the message   across, yet you can still bounce along to the music and sing along to the signature chorus of “It doesn’t have to be like this/Killer whales/Killer whales.” I’d love to see either version performed live, and I feel both serve their purpose: The original a great addition to the post-collegiate crisis of “Teens of Denial,” and the single version an excellent way to add some thought-provoking lyricism to a late night TV performance (where I originally heard the song on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon).

I’ve heard Car Seat Headrest is back in the studio already, and I wish I could convey with words how excited I am that another record, or even just some new singles, will be coming soon. Hearing what a crew of young 20somethings can create, and seeing the impact it has on college students, 40-year-old radio and TV hosts, 50-year-old businesspeople and everyone in between gives me hope that God’s gift of music will always be around to bring us together.

As for me, I intend to continue along with my trek into Will Toledo and Co.’s back catalogue, and “Nervous Young Man” and “Twin Fantasy” will most likely be blasting all winter long.

Happiest and blessed holidays to all my friends and readers out there, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the jams of Car Seat Headrest.

God bless, safe travels and peace on Earth.

-A.L.D.

Track Review: The Orwells’ “They Put A Body In The Bayou”

Greetings, my friends. It’s been an embarrassingly long time since an update, but I must ask for a pardon since I am a student and finals combined with work, club leadership and house chores are proving to be a trying time.

Thankfully, about a month ago, The Orwells released a new single, “They Put A Body In The Bayou” from their upcoming LP “Terrible Human Beings.” And it does not disappoint.

I’ve been following this band since I heard their song “Mallrats (La la la)” on XMU’s Download 15 in high school. At the time, I remember being amazed at how people who were around my age (the frontman was 18 at the time) managed to create garage rock and get played on a major indie network.

This continues to impress me with The Orwells: their ability as young musicians to craft songs that have a sneering, devil-may-care kind of teenage swagger that mask simply written, rhyming lyrics with heavy subject matter.

Their last record, “Disgraceland,” did just that for me. I remember it starting off with the playful ode to being young “Southern Comfort” and being floored once the back half of the album came around and songs about reckless motorcycle crashes (“Always’N’Forever”) and themes of death (“Blood Bubbles”) took over the track listing. It’s a sad record with just enough punchy punk songs to keep you coming back.

This new single lives up to my expectations, seeing The Orwells continue in this shameless teenager delivery. The opening to the track reminds me of something Oasis would’ve released in their early years, which I really hope is a musical theme they stick with in the upcoming record.

There’s the signature half singing, half snarking tone of frontman Mario Cuomo and darker-than-you’d-expect lyrics dealing with substance abuse, corruption of morals and alcoholism. That’s what sticks out to me the most-how fun this song is, and how serious it’s lyrical matter is once you stop to think about it.

The thing that bothers me is the length and structure-it’s about 3 minutes, and it follows a very basic verse/chorus/verse/chorus form. While that’s part of what makes The Orwells’ music so fun and accessible-it’s short, it makes you think but you can still sing along in the car, it keeps your attention-it can get old after a while. I’m hoping they experiment with different song styles and structures on this new record, but all in all, it’s a solid release following the success that 2014’s singles “Who Needs You” and “The Righteous One” found.

I eagerly await the release of “Terrible Human Beings” in February. Check out the song here.

As always, thanks much for reading, and God bless. I’ll be on break very soon, and blogging will pick up again then. Have a lovely and blessed weekend.

-A.L.D.