There’s music you listen to because of how it sounds, and then there’s music you listen to because of how it feels. Sometimes these two qualities congeal into something that sounds how you feel. Such is the case with indie rock band Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy.”
“Twin Fantasy,” originally released on Nov. 2 2011, was re-released in 2018 as “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face),” redubbing the original 2011 version as “Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror).” While “Face to Face” has the same tracklist as “Mirror to Mirror,” the newer recording shows the artistic maturity that the band, particularly frontman and original solo member, Will Toledo, has gone through.
The grunge of Car Seat Headrest’s sound stems from Toledo recording music in his car. In “Face to Face,” that lo-fi sound keeps its integrity while also being a little more legible for the viewer. In the “Mirror to Mirror” version of “Twin Fantasy,” it’s nigh impossible to understand what is being said if you don’t already know the lyrics. And if you ask me, the lyrics of “Twin Fantasy” are one of the best parts of the whole album.
Music, like poetry or literary modernism, has the ability to make the abstract human experience into something that nearly-but-doesn’t-quite-make-sense. There’s a sort of looseness in the lyrics of “Twin Fantasy” — you can almost piece together a narrative. But that open-ended nature of the album also allows for relatability.
Car Seat Headrest is a band that I found at the right place and at the right time. I’m not sure I would love their work as much if I had discovered it in college. Their discography is a whole shelf of bildungsromans. “Twin Fantasy” is no different. It’s a coming of age tale, written by Toledo while he was in college. It leads to something that is in every way genuine. In “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)” that genuine feeling is rediscovered by Toledo at a later stage of his life that allows for further insight and layering.
In the “Mirror to Mirror” version of the album, during the final track, “Those Boys,” Toledo has a monologue over an instrumental: “But he blinks now, and shakes himself awake. He has rejoined society. Come, dear children, call no more. He has only lyrics now.” It’s a good note on which to end that particular version of the album, but, in the “Face to Face” version, the monologue changes: “So pour one out, whoever you are. These are only lyrics now.” The pronoun change is exemplary of the sort of maturity that Toledo brings to this new version of the album. You can never fully see life as it is happening to you, but, as the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” This is what’s happening in “Twin Fantasy.”
I wish more bands would revisit their work with the same maturity of Toledo in “Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).” The album stands out as one of the band’s strongest works, one filled with nostalgia and grace. I get emotional just thinking about it; Car Seat Headrest has seen me through some of the toughest years of my life. It helped, I think, to know in those dark lonely hours that someone felt the same way. It’s comforting too then to see that Toledo eventually found his way out of it, that this album that once chronicled a failing relationship and college heartbreak is indeed only lyrics now.