Quick Hit Song Reviews: Car Seat Headrest and Classixx

“1937 State Park” – by Car Seat Headrest

It appears Pitchfork has decided to make Car Seat Headrest their obligatory indie rock/emo/punk/classic rock band of the year. Not to insult Car Seat Headrest-they’re perfectly fine- but it’s just that Pitchfork does usually need to feel the need to have diversity in their music selections, which leads to one or two of these type of acts being highlighted every year. Last year it was Courtney Barnett, who is amazing. They’re not bad choices by any means, but it is interesting that this album was rated “best new music” and Holy Ghost by Modern Baseball was not. They’re about even in my mind.

“1937 State Park” is my favorite song off Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest, which was released on the May 20th. Car Seat Headrest is primarily the project of Will Toledo, who has been releasing his mixture of Pavement and Weezer since 2010. The album as a whole is solid, even if some of the tracks are a bit long for no reason (11 minutes for “The Ballad of Costa Concordia”??). This style of rather unintelligible, angsty lyrics with scratchy guitar hooks has been Car Seat Headrest’s domain. The band has been very good at releasing an album every single year since 2010, and this is probably either their best or second-best yet.

“1937 State Park” begins with an eerie voiceover before the singing of Will Toledo comes into the speakers. Punk is often conflated with little dynamic change, but Toledo clearly understands the power of dynamics and pacing  for this song. The buildup to the central solo is fantastic and the chorus sweeps over the rest of the track with reckless intensity. Like a good Built to Spill song or Pavement track, the rock backing and arrangement is certainly compelling enough to support the lyrics. The hook for “1937 State Park” is one of the band’s best, and the chorus is instantly catchy.

The song is ostensibly about death. Reflections about these topics are hardly new, but Toledo’s melancholy is compounded by the hollowness he feels in the song. Toledo claims that talking about graveyards is “cliche in this generation” because that’s the only most obvious reminder of death. Toledo highlights less obvious ways we cope with death and loss. He picks up on slight details of lives like Air Jordans and trips to the state park that are forgotten in obituaries. He feels sad, like he does on most of his songs. He feels guilty. The only way to escape is through the music, I suppose.

“Safe Inside” by Classixx from Faraway Reach (scheduled for release 6/3)

I love to listen to Classixx when I’m bored. Usually, my appreciation for indie dance/electronica music revolves around how much the band in question sounds like New Order. Classixx passes the test with flying colors. “Rhythm Santa Clara” might as well be a New Order song. High vocals, odd samples and conventional beat patterns, yeah, you got a good New Order clone going.

“Safe Inside” features Passion Pit, an artist I never really got behind. I know other people like Passion Pit, but they have never been my cup of tea. They do have a couple good songs, and they definitely do adequately on this one. Michael Angelakos, a.k.a., the lead guy from Passion Pit (I don’t know his name, so I looked it up on Wikipedia), has a good voice and it fits well.

The beat and hook, which are in my opinion the most important part of electronic music like this, are hardly special for Classixx. It’s a typical, breezy indie dance track that sounds decent and takes no risks. The best Classixx songs are the ones like “I’ll Get You” and “Holding On” where they experiment with more complex club rhythms, but “Safe Inside” still works.

Honestly, I don’t listen to Classixx for the lyrics, but on this occasion they involve a long discussion of things that are “safe inside your room”. I’m assuming this is a veiled reference to something, but who listens to dance music for the lyrics? My favorite Classixx song, the aforementioned “I’ll Get You”, just involves a Daft Punk-voice screaming “DO YOU LIKE BASS” over and over again.

Good stuff, but I looked forward to seeing the whole album.

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