Over the previous 5 years, Automotive Seat Headrest has develop into one in all most enjoyable bands in indie rock, a place it gained by regularly difficult itself. Will Toledo, the outfit’s 27-year-old singer and songwriter, began recording beneath the identify on his personal within the early 2010s, and from the outset he was astonishingly productive, self-releasing 9 albums in simply over 4 years. In 2015, he got here to the eye of Matador Information, the imprint whose artists helped to outline the sound of unbiased music within the 1990s. Mr. Toledo had the prolific output of Guided by Voices, the emotional craving of Modest Mouse, the cool take away of Pavement, and a voice that generally recalled Julian Casablancas of the Strokes. However he’s at all times had a stressed aspect, attempting on after which shedding personas and conceptual concepts because the spirit has moved him.
Automotive Seat Headrest was once Mr. Toledo alone, however prior to now few years a lineup has solidified, together with drummer Andrew Katz, bassist Seth Dalby, and second guitarist Ethan Ives. Mr. Toledo and Mr. Katz have a comedic aspect undertaking known as 1 Trait Hazard, steeped within the crass digital dance music often known as EDM that has develop into massively in style at festivals world-wide. Mr. Toledo conceived the brand new Automotive Seat Headrest file, “Making a Door Much less Open,” out Friday, as a collaboration between the 2 tasks, incorporating surreal humor and beat-heavy electronics with guitar-driven indie rock.
It’s straightforward to attract strains from right here to the quirky aspect undertaking—from the primary seconds of the opening “Weightlifters,” it’s clear that we’re in a really totally different place from the place we left off with the band’s final studio album, 2018’s “Twin Fantasy.” The monitor begins with the whine of a synthesizer, and a drum machine folds in, offering a pseudo-tribal clatter, an experimental new-wave twitchiness that brings to thoughts the early Speaking Heads albums produced by Brian Eno. However the viewpoint is acquainted. One among Mr. Toledo’s bedrock themes is change. His phrases are sometimes about desirous to be another person, and about whether or not precise transformation is feasible, and “Weightlifters” is one other of his nice songs on the topic. It’s about feeling insufficient and separate from the world and imagining a private metamorphosis that would spring from bodily exercise (“Once I noticed my peculiar face / I ought to begin lifting weights”) or someplace inside (“Ideas can change my physique”).
Mr. Toledo is a terrific lyricist with a penchant for odd and humorous strains that don’t appear to belong in rock songs (“I’m simply right here to purchase some tangerines / And perhaps grapes with out seeds” is one such couplet from the opening monitor). And he’s a superb author of choruses, with an ear for immediately memorable hooks that his audiences will shortly internalize and shout again at him in live performance. This populist ability is undamaged on “Making a Door Much less Open,” but it surely’s extra sporadically deployed. “Can’t Cool Me Down” and “Life Price Lacking” are infectious anthems that construct to cathartic peaks, among the many greatest tunes Mr. Toledo has ever written. “There Should Be Extra Than Blood” is greater than seven minutes lengthy and positively riveting, transferring from subtly pulsing electronics to ecstatic launch. Its empathy for the lonely and dejected—and eye for palpable imagery (“It’s the guilt in your throat such as you swallowed a bone”)—give it emotional pressure.
These tracks characteristic exact, mechanized beats and heavy dollops of synth, however they play to Mr. Toledo’s strengths as a craftsman. Elsewhere, the album take a satirical flip that’s to not the file’s profit. “Hollywood” has a humorous if apparent refrain (”Hollywood makes me need to puke”) and finds Mr. Katz offering his shouted asides alongside Mr. Toledo’s melody, whereas “Hymn (Remix)” has electronically mangled vocals and a gurgling low-end pulse. The transient “What’s With You These days” is simply voice and acoustic guitar and is sung with an exaggerated sense of self-importance, taking part in like a parody of a heartfelt singer-songwriter ballad. “Well-known” finds Mr. Toledo chanting easy refrains as his vocals, through processing, soar from his pure vary to Chipmunk register.
Maybe by design, “Making a Door Much less Open” is queasy and disorienting, as a few of Mr. Toledo’s strongest and explosive work is jumbled with tracks whose jokes don’t land and whose sonics can solely be described as irritating. But it surely’s by no means boring, and it’s doable that this perplexing experiment will make extra sense in time. For now, whereas extra dedicated followers puzzle via the strains and references, questioning how and if the items match collectively, the merely curious can cherry-pick highlights and listen to among the greatest indie rock songs of the 12 months.
Mr. Richardson is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic. Observe him on Twitter @MarkRichardson.
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