Review snippets taken from the Teens of Denial CSH bandcamp page. (Click on the embedded sample to check out the full review)
There are two kinds of great lyrics. The first is the banger/anthem catch phrase: “Normal life is borin’ / but superstardom is close to post-mortem.” The second is more complex (and more rarely found): “Like a bird on a wire / Like a drunk in a midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free” — with ideas, themes, and personae unfolding over the course of songs, contradicting each other, confronting the listeners’ preconceptions, like Pete Townsend, Morrissey, or Kendrick Lamar.
Will Toledo, the singer/songwriter/visionary of Car Seat Headrest, is adept at both, having developed them over the course of his eleven college-recorded Bandcamp albums and his retrospective collection last fall, Teens of Style. With Teens of Denial, his first real “studio” album with an actual band, Toledo moves from bedroom pop to something approaching classic-rock grandeur and huge (if detailed and personal) narrative ambitions, with nods to the Cars, Pavement, Jonathan Richmond, Wire, and William Onyeabor.
Teens of Denial refracts Toledo’s particular, personal story of one difficult year through cultural touchstones such as the biography of Frank Sinatra, the evolution of the Me Generation as seen in Mad Men and elsewhere, plus elements of eastern and western theology. The whole thing flaunts a kind of conceptual, lyrical, and musical ambition that has been missing from far too much 21st-century music.