Published Apr 29, 2020Car Seat Headrest records tend to crash and roil, towering waves of teenage feeling that knock you over with their sheer enormity. Making a Door Less Open, then, is a Car Seat Headrest album in name more than anything else, an electronics-laced detour to a different corner of the Will Toledo universe.
The immense thunder of 2016's Teens of Denial and 2018's revamped Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is gone, replaced by nervous hip-hop rhythms and EDM textures. It's as if the anxieties that have always coloured Toledo's lyrics have seeped into the music itself — Making a Door Less Open is interested more in tension than in sonic catharsis. The record is billed as a collaboration between Car Seat Headrest and 1 Trait Danger, a side project helmed by Toledo and CSH drummer Andrew Katz. It comes with a new character too – the gas mask and neon clad Trait, who Toledo has described as a reaction to his stage fright, a piece of fun artifice.
And while these still feel like Will Toledo songs, they lack the hyper-specific poetics of his previous records. The album gets its only real misstep out of the way early — "Hollywood" is at odds with Toledo's typically razor-sharp instincts, a near-comedy in the vein of Weezer's "Beverly Hills" that feels somehow both too silly and too serious.
The album's obvious highlights come when Toledo and co. are able to meld these new textures to the well of feeling that drives Car Seat Headrest. It's the singles that remain most satisfying — the shapeshifting "Can't Cool Me Down"; the galloping "Martin"; the washes of sound that carry the ringing "There Must Be More Than Blood."
Making a Door Less Open feels smaller than Car Seat Headrest's best work — not only in its sonic scope but in its lyrical content, now less insular and biting. Still, Toledo's talent for stirring melodies and intelligent song writing remain firmly intact, and he makes intriguing use of this new palette. Making a Door Less Open ultimately sounds like an entertaining experiment, a test of Car Seat Headrest's malleability and potential for new directions. (Matador)