Photo Credit: Carlos Cruz
“Weightlifters”, the lead-off track on Car Seat Headrest’s twelfth studio album Making a Door Less Open, starts out by holding the same note for the first thirty seconds. Some might assume (or worry) that this will set the stage for the entire record, but Making a Door Less Open quickly reveals itself to be anything but one-note. The rest of “Weightlifters” alone verifies this by combining guitars and a hip hop beat to create a bouncy and relaxed but meaningful song, one which also reintroduces us to the sleepy-but-heartfelt vocal style of lead singer Will Toledo.
This continues – for the most part – on “Can’t Cool Me Down”, although even with the great bassline and another engaging beat, the track itself does cool down somewhat by its conclusion. Still, Toledo seems to express a subtle, almost under-the-breath form of anger which gets the point across more than a scream ever would. This is perhaps proven conclusively by “Hollywood”, despite a sentiment we can probably all get behind (“Hollywood makes me wanna puke”) and an appealing classic-rock style keyboard breaks about two-thirds of the way in. Unfortunately, the uncharacteristic screaming approach which the song attempts to employ makes the whole track come off like leftover Red Hot Chili Peppers by the end.
Although on the subject of Nineties influences, probably the album’s best track is “Martin”, which mixes another irresistible synth beat with a bit of Herb Alpert-style horns and Nirvana and R.E.M.-style acoustic guitar. On that subject, it’s anyone’s guess why the promising, beautiful all-acoustic track “What With You Lately” would be thrown in as just over a minute in length when it could (and should) have been expanded into a longer cut. On the other hand, even though it’s nearly twice as long, the weird and grating synth track “Hymn – Remix” is the very definition of filler (the original “Hymn” is apparently available exclusively on vinyl, if anyone’s interested).
By contrast, some listeners might be put off by the sheer length (7:33) of “There Must Be More Than Blood”, but that fear will prove unfounded. After opening with a subtle guitar riff, “More Than Blood” unveils a strong, steady beat along with a great chorus. Not to mention that the message which the title promises ultimately delivers: It’s not about violence, but rather the notion that there must be more to everything than what we see and feel on the surface: “There must be more than blood that holds us together // There must be more than wind that takes us away // There must be more than tears when they pull back the curtain // Of this much I am certain.”
The song which follows – and closes the album – is sort of an afterthought, and oddly even creates something of a contradiction to what had been expressed up to that point. “Matter // Please let this matter,” the band seems to be begging to whomever is willing to listen in “Famous.” Indeed, realistically speaking, the band has not had much luck in terms of commercial success: their last album Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) (2018) barely cracked the Billboard Top 100, while this current release peeked at #184 as of this writing. So unfortunately there’s a good chance that Making a Door Less Open won’t be making Car Seat Headrest too much less of a cult act – even though it probably should.