Making new music is always a risk for any artist with a catalog. Stray too far from what your fans know may alienate an entire group of followers while churning out the same type of songs can create a stale and flat arc for a band that may never reach the height of past success. For Car Seat Headrest and founder/leader Will Toledo, Making A Door Less Open takes a big risk as it crawls back a bit into the experimental and laid back side of his extensive early Bandcamp albums. This is not a bad thing for Car Seat Headrest but this record is different. Especially different when this album is the first all new music we have heard from the band in four years as 2018’s Twin Fantasy was a remake of his previous work.
Considering rock music as a whole, and bands for sure, has been taking a backseat to other genres in music right now, the more synthetic and electronic pieces on Making A Door Less Open might actually make more sense than a straight up guitar driven album but the record is not as immediate accessible. In fact, depending on how you listen to the record, (vinyl, CD, or digital) there are different mixes of certain tracks and even different track listings depending on your media choice. Honestly, I am not 100% sure which version I like best yet but the vinyl version has the lead as I think the catchy single “Martin” strongly supports side two of the album compared to a track 4 spot on the CD. I feel some of the other mix changes don’t boost or take away from the album as whole but fans will want to still make those decisions and hear the different versions.
Making A Door Less Open will grow on you. There are plenty of what I would call “Car Seat Headrest moments” with Toledo’s catchy lyrics and out of nowhere harmonies that start to sink many of these songs into your head. It also is a record that fits solidly into a time of anxiety and more alone time than any of us expected to deal with. Making A Door Less Open lets the isolation and paranoia of these days feel normal. It is a headphone album that you hear new pieces with on every listen and I think has an early Beck like vibe that I liked. This laid back experimental delivery works and even though the record is a totally different artistic avenue for the band, I think the risk was worth taking for Car Seat Headrest and even more so worth checking out. They have reached the point where their career is a marathon and not a sprint and when looking back, I believe Making A Door Less Open will be a solid mile marker on that road.
– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde