Tonight, the band/dude who restored my faith in the idea of ambitious pop.
Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Style (just noting it, the whole “Teens of _____” is new)
The Gateway Drug
“Times To Die”, crucially, the Spotify Sessions version. This matters. (Also, no video.)
Credit the unmasked boredom of the opening stanza for drawing me in, but I still had to overcome the singer’s voice (I don’t know his name at this point in the story; wait for it). As with a lot of songs I fall for hardest, this one sucked me in with successive listens. Before long, I’d cut out halfway through to give the first half another listen, and would go through to the end from there.
Clearly, I’m kicking around a familiar line – e.g., the gift-that-keeps-on-giving kind of song, one that mixes up the high-fives with each successive listen (e.g., “up high, down low, side to side,” etc.). Once you listen to the singer’s lyrics, you stop caring about his voice; or, better, you start to believe that flat, hang-dog effect plays to the lyrics like harmony. To pick up the lede, “Time To Die” passes through a couple phases on its march toward its end, vacillating between reaching for the heavens (literally, the bit about “…invited into the Divine Council”), then surrendering to the failure of all that.
It’s your basic quest for meaning, really. Then again, I just read today (in one of those “Genius Lyric” that Spotify runs over songs at random) that Will Toledo (aka, Will Barnes) feels like people read too much into his lyrics. And, his heavy use of image/metaphor/simile aside, I think I get his point: Toledo/Barnes’ lyrics feel straightforward; he’s just trying to make them more vivid.
Anyway, great song, totally grew on me over the months since September last year. Then I heard the studio version…
Teens of Style’s version of “Times to Die” shares everything with the Spotify Sessions version (again, sorry; posting via Spotify to twitter...soon), except every single recording/production decision made on the album. The layering upon layers audio effect starts with the opening track, “Sunburned Shirts,” and, just checked, it carries through to the end. I have no objective objection to that, never mind a subjective one, it’s just that that Spotify Sessions version reeks a bit of false advertising.
Then again, Car Seat Headrest’s Wikipedia page mentioned that Toledo recorded Teens of Style using “traditional studio processes,” and I’m ignorant of everything else he/they have done, so God only knows where real and fake ends and begins in all that.
Still, what to make of Teens of Style?