Radical intentions, mixed results...

Four years since 'Teens Of Denial'. We’re dealing with a wildly different world (hello, COVID) - and, by the sounds of this, a fairly different band. ‘Making A Door Less Open’ marks a collaboration between Car Seat Headrest and 1Trait, singer Will Toledo’s electronic side-project with CSH drummer Andrew Katz.

Recorded twice - first, to capture the live elements of guitar, drum and bass; the second time to slot in synth and electronics - ‘Making A Door Less Open’ is being released in three separate formats (for digital, vinyl and CD).

It’s a statement on the way people consume music today, the individual energy of songs wrapped in the illusion of an album. And it’s first official outing of Toledo’s alter-ego, Trait, clad in an eerily prescient gas mask - a foreboding costume change, if ever there was one.

Toledo’s always fooled around with obscurity and candour - heartfelt words half-hidden in the fuzzy clouds of self-conscious lo-fi - and this is no different. If there’s any kind of lingering aural continuity, you’ll find it there. Other than that, it’s open season on genres here. There’s the puerile punk of ‘Hollywood’ (“makes me wanna puke”), and the misguided balladry of ‘What’s With You Lately’. But they’re the only real bum notes.

This experimental streak finds better pay off on ‘Hymn (Remix)’, crammed with juddering synths, and the delicious 80s pop of ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’. Sometimes, they veer almost to the middle of the road, radio-friendly hit ‘Martin’, warmed up with muted brass and intricate looping.

Defining moments? Two spring to mind. The searching ‘There Must Be More Than Blood’ is comparatively epic (clocking in at 7.34 mins) - chewing over the meaning of it all, the jaded revelation “these are not my people here” coming over like an existential crisis with a microphone in front of it. ‘Life Worth Missing’ picks up where ‘...Denial’ left off - building the album’s anthem on their trademark foundation of the angsty confessional.

It isn’t the death of the album. But it’s an intriguing exploration of what it can mean to the modern ear. And in these fragmented, isolated times, when it’s a struggle to feel part of anything?

Maybe there’s no more fitting musical representation. 

7/10

Words: Marianne Gallagher

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