Dear reader, a couple nights ago I got hungry at one o’clock in the morning and went out to the convenience store up the street for some taquitos. And while I was there, in the convenience store on that fateful evening – night, early morning? – I noticed that they were having a sale on raspberry lemonade. So I bought the goddamned strawberry lemonade. I mean, raspberry lemonade. I bought it. And I drank most of it, and then when there was one glass left, I thought, hey, this would be perfect to go with that bottle of Absolut I’ve had sitting in my freezer since the summer of 2015.
I have seriously had a bottle of Vodka just sitting in my freezer for almost two years. That is how infrequently I drink. The last time it saw any play was in early 2016 when I was watching the Star Wars prequels and I decided it would be better to do that drunk, and so I mixed the vodka with… I want to say Gatorade? And it made for a very pleasant viewing experience of The Phantom Menace. I was sober for my subsequent viewings of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and they both sucked, while I remember TPM being downright enjoyable.
But I digress. Tonight, I am here to do two things and two things only: down this glass of raspberry lemonade spiked with vodka and scream about Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest, the greatest album of the last twenty years, a watershed moment in Will Toledo’s creative development, and the greatest piece of art about being young and queer since like. At least that one episode of Glee where Kurt played football.
So, let’s start with an essential question: what is Twin Fantasy about? This is not usually a question you ask about albums. LPs aren’t about things in the way that books are about things, or that movies are about things; they don’t generally have plots. Not even really fancy high-concept albums like The Monitor by Titus Andronicus or super personal works like Mitski’s Puberty 2. To listen to Twin Fantasy is to read a great book, or watch a great movie; there is a smooth arc, rising high in the sky, from beginning to middle to end. Certain songs stand out the way certain scenes in a movie might stand out, but ultimately, if you want the whole thing to really land, you need… the whole thing.
So what, then, is Twin Fantasy about? It’s about how when you’re a teenager and you’re queer and you’ve never had a relationship before and you’ve never related to anyone in your peer group before and you meet someone online who GETS you, it will fuck your entire life up! There’s shit on here that is universally relatable, but unless you’ve been in that exact situation, staying up until three o’clock in the morning to exchange heartfelt, earnest messages with the person you’re in love with who lives in a different country eight timezones ahead, you’re not going to really get it.
Will Toledo, the lead singer – lead everythign, of Car Seat headrest, at this point? – he had such an experience. And that is all I will say, because unlike the freaks over on the Car Seat Headrest reddit, I’m not about digging through his social media profiels to find the DIRT on who he dated and when. I mean, ther eis a lot of dirt on this album. Because it’s all songs that he wrote for and about this person where they were falling in love and then they were in love and then they suddenly weren’t anymore, and all of that is bloody and heartfelt and executed here with th heartbreakign . sincerity. But if I have to read one more thing about this album that’s a bunch of kids gossiping about his actual personal realtionships I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs.
But here’s what that ‘s important: there are no cultural mirrors for this kind of thing. Like, queer representation in media for young people is such a net-level shitshow already, but basically if you are starteign from the assuption that there’s more than one gay kid at a given high school you ar e inventing reality, pal. You come out as gay and it’s like, what ar eyou suppsoed to do with taht? Like I’m just opening my self up to ridicule and for what? Because there’s not anyone here to date? Like I’m going to just get mocked and be single for however many years? Bullshittingont.
So what do you do? What’s the alternative? you hop on Tumblr and you talk about gay shit with people who don’t suck. Or whatever other site. There are RUMOUROUS that Will Toledo used FurAffinity which I made a Fur Affinity account to verify but he had salted the earth and so nothing could grow there for a thousand years by the time I got there. And there were a bunch of people writing “your music is so good” in the coomments wheich must be hard if you’re headlining Coachella and being #4 on Rolling Stone if peopel are haunting your old Fur Affinity page sstill.
So okay you join on e of the sites. And you talk to other gay people and then you find THE gay person who is liek, YOUR GAY PERSON, and it is like nothing you have ever known before because it i s IS nothing you’ve ever known before and it’s all shiny and new and the new relationship energy is firing like crazy and your whole life you thought you were loathsome and unlovable but now you know it’s not true because BECAUSE you found YOUR GAY PERSON. and it’s beautiful and pure and special but you’re probably young and probably traumaotized and you don’t really know how to do relationshpis yet because you were busy being a bucket of self-loathing when everyone else was learnign how to date so you’ve very new at this. and so you think you have to be this person’s therapist, you probalby don’t, and it gets really hard and then finally you save up hundreds of dolalrs to take an insane long greyhound bus ride to see them and visit them and OR you fly on a plane, I am just saying from my personal experience it was always Gryehound buses or megabuses. So then you meet them in person and it’s like all of your wildest dreams coming true adn then you go back home and you realize you are going to have to pay hundreds more dollars buster if you ever want to see them again and meanwhile all your straight friends can just like, see their people whenever they wants and it’s total bullshit. And then you start to fight and things fall abpart and it is … devastating.
So Twin Fatnasy is an album about that. It’s the only piece of medi ai I’ve ever found that is about that. Calling it a piece of media is bullshit too because that’s w one of those words internet people use ilike “content” like what does it mean? Not is’ a piece of ART. It’s a pieece of art that it s about being gay nd lonely and isolated and falling in love on the internet and having this fucking GRUELING exhausting relationship long-distnace thing because structual homophobia is preventing you for dating people who live within a reasonable distance. And you’re too young to handl ethe long distance thing you just are !!!
So the first son g is “My Boy (Twin Ftansty)” and it oepns with the drums from Be “My BAby” by the Ronettes or something that sounds bvery similar but it’s supposed to make the song sound like one of those classic sounds like the Phil Sepctor Wall of Sound or the Beach Boys and that in and of itself is VERY cool because it’s like this teenager sitting in his bedroom recording on his laptop being like, “spet aside Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, I deserve to use this pop tradition ans mucha s you !!!!!!!” And then just sitting down and layign down this immaculuate track about telling a boy he loves him. And he says “we won’t be alone” whcih is bananas because we? aloen? Like referring to a plural and then saying alone? Like we’re both alone but we… wont’ be, in the furture? ANd then he does this thing where the dtakes the delicate pop 60s thing he was doing and MELTS it like Pavemtn and starts shouting the vocal line which is cool because it sserves to further establish that he’s working int he tradition of theis heteromormtive mold but yanking it in tot he modern era to suit HIS purposes and his own story. It’s bold.
and then there’s “Beach Life = in Death” which is ten minutes long and has like four different parts and someow sustains itself over the coruse of the running time by being endlessly vital just tracking the early development of this relationship when it’s clearly taking up so much of his mental real estate but he can’t act on it and he isn’t out yet? There’s a perfect line here that’s like, “I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my rfriends/ I never came out to my friends/ We were all on Skype/ And I laughed and changed the sombjest,” and I just stwallwed the last of the my drink and there was like a LOT of vodka at the bottom of the glass with the pulp that one hurt. But he’s still so alone and so unable to articule his feelings even though he is pouring all of this out in private, he can’t take to his friends and they don’t get him. And then it’s twele ve minutes long and THEN there’s a little miute and a half long acoustic number called “Stop Smoking” and it’s the simplest thing ever and THAt’S what i Mean when I say this is cinematic because following a twelve-part multi-part epic song with a tiny little acoustic ditty is very smart ESPECIALLY When you’re fllowing it up with “Sober to Death” which is DEVASTATING like you need to give people a palate cleanser and “Stop Smoking” is that palate slcelansr.
And “Sober to DEath” is hard because it’s that thing I was talking about before of how you’re a young poorly adjusted teen on the internet and you’re in love with another young peoorly adjusted teen on the inrentet and you probably don’t have many resourc es and ouuyou’ve marby not out yet so you become really codependent and depdn to n each other for moral support and you’re basically being eashc other’s therapists? And like you’re depressed and anxious and suicidal and they’re also depressed ans anxious and suicidal but you have to put aside your own depressiona nd axniety and suidailaty to console them via tesxt message and be like, “please life is worth living” and keep them alive? It is a heavy burden. It’s not fair and it’s so sad and heartbreakign because here the biggest consoaltion Will can offer the person he loves is “you can text me” like he can’t even physically BE THERE and he sings it so sincerley and if you’re even been in this position you KNOW how meaningful it is, not just to be the one receiving that support from someboy but to be able to provide it to dosmehe! To be like “I’m capable to helping someone!” And feel like you’re worth something. When really you both need help you can ‘t give each other but you can only try.
And then there’s Nervous Young Inhumans which is probably the weakest song on the album but it’s imporatnt because it’s sort of his first stab at a confession of feeling or telling someone that he wants to be with this prson, but it kind of falls flat in the execution? Like it is a decent, fun song, because he is a good songwriter and a musician, but it ends with this rambling monologu ehe does about Frankenestein and he’s stumbling over everything and avoiding saying “in love” and at the end he mumbles that he regrets ever writing the song.
AND THEN. HE COMES OUT OF NOWHERE WITH THE BEGINNING TO BODYS WIHICH IS THIS POUNDING DURM BEAT LIKE BOOM BOOM BOOM AND HE GOES “THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT TO SAY AT ALL I MEAN I’M SICK OF MEANING I JUST WANNA hoLD yoU!!!!!!” Which ties into the end of the last song but is like, he’s throwing out all the fancy Frankesinte syndrome and getting rIGHT to the poitn which is that he wants to hold this person and be with them and it’s also called Bodys, the song is called Bodys, which is so significant because so much of theis internet relationships is not being able to be with each other physically or touch each other and the whole chorus is DON’T YOU REALIZE I OUR BOdy S COULD FALL ABOUT AT ANY SODCOND” and it’s about like needing needing needing to TOUCH someone and BE WITH them PHYSICALLY before the world ends because what if you needver get that chance? And just throwing out all your own insecurities and fucking goding for it. BEcause life is too short, but it’s also too long to keep denying oursel f things. And it’s just a banger. Liek it really is so good. He just goes all the way off. I can’t believe a human being wrote this song let a lone a teenager with a laptop and Garage Band and a guitar to usb chord. It’s super human.
And then the next song is Cute Thing which is about that time you visit your Gay Person and everything is so rosy because they’re right there finally!!! Right in frotn of yuo! ANd you can kiss them and hold them and have sex with them and see all the special places in their hometow n that they’ve told you about and lie down int he middle of the road staring up at the sky like you’re in The Netboke. I did that once. And you’ve waited for this and wanted it for so long that every moment seems unbelievably precious and then it’s oer too soon but you don’t think about that, like it doesn’t sour the moment because you’re so in it, you’re just like angel food cake on whipepd creamd.
And you get on the bus adn you’re like okay that was amazing and I’m going to do this again, but then you et home and you realize you don’t have $500 to do it again? And it’s going to mbe months and months more until you get to do it again? And they can’t visit you either and it’s this whole thing now because you’ve exist ed in each other’s physical space and you wanted that now and you can’t have it.
So “High to Death” is about that moment when everythin gis kind of alling apart and you’re realizing you can’t ssustain this. And it is the song that works least well on its own it really needs the hwole context of the album, because it’s not really a song an s much as an expression of pure grief? Just washes of soudn.
And then there’s the second to last song which name I forget. The last two songs are called “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)” and “Famous Prophets (Minds).” I think Famous Prophets is first. But the second to last song is about feeling betrayed and wondering wh tthis person even asked you to come in the first place and you feel so empty and then you don’t know how you’re ever going to go on and it all feels like a huge, colossal mistake because this was the first time you ever felt something like this for anyone and it was so… not even just heartbreaking but on this massive scale because you feel like if you’d been in sthe same town then amybe it could have worekd.
And then the last song i s about how he gets over, well not gets over as much as just “blinks and wakes himself akwake” and dissociates from the whole romance and bpretends it was a dream and not a real thing that happened to him. BEcause in a way it was? It wasn’t, you know we say “IRL friends” to distnigush between people we know who aren’t from the internet, and Will was out living his IRL life and this person wa s entirely on the internet for the most part, fully separate from his day -to dya life, but the lines got blurred and now this thing that nobody else can see or knows about is just a heavy albatross around his neck.
I haven’t even talked about the aactual musical element of this album just the themes but i think that’s a good strat. Musically ti is esxceeltn. Even though his produ ction is not the greatest I mean for god’s sake what a dumbass thing to seven say about this album because he was a teenager on a laptop for god’s sake not goddamn Lou Redd in a Electric Lady Studio. Like if you’re compalinign about the PRODUCTIOn of all things you just sound like an asshole. This was a naked cry of the heart, don’t step to me about roudciton.My cat is asleep but she’s seleping really weird like with all her legs sitcking up straight in the air. She’s a weird cat. She sleeps with her eye open also because she was a , rescue cat, froma mill, so she lost one eye due to an einfection and her other eye is wonky and hse can’t eally see out of it so it is sopen sometiems when she is sleeping. Oh she just woke up.
Edit, December 22, 2017: Realized I made an egregious oversight in not posting pictures of my cat with the original version of this post. Here are a couple, including one of her watching the CSH Coachella livestream back in April.
Please listen to Twin Fantsy. It is so cgood. I want him to resisue it although i don’t know thtat will mean he re-records it or if he just puts it out on vinyl and stuff? I wond er, I mean, part of the magic here is that it si so plainly the word of a unskilled or at least inexperienced musician and the lack of polish is what accent uate s the ajutnhecnity. Go ddamn it. Oh my god, you guys. I have alcohol two times a year this is hell for me? I love Twin Fantasyt. I hope he reissues it. Actually I hope someone turns it int ao Abroady musical or something or, like a movie like Lemonade where every song is a short film. Beyonce cover of Twin FAnstay.
On February 16, 2018, Car Seat Headrest released a re-recorded version of Twin Fantasy, which you can purchase here and stream anywhere. I had the surreal and wonderful privilege of writing a (sober) press release extolling the greatness of Twin Fantasy, and also interviewing Will about the new version. Turns out the real “the next Funeral” was the friends we made along the way.
As of this writing, Twin Fantasy is the most critically acclaimed album of 2018 on Metacritic and the highest-rated album of 2018 on RateYourMusic. On the day of its release, it was the best-selling alternative album in the U.S. iTunes store. Life is a rich tapestry.