Car Seat Headrest is one of the many great bands on the Hopscotch lineup this year. More on that in a bit. First, some bio, some stuff about the new album, some stuff about Ric Ocasek. And obviously, some stuff about today’s song.
Car Seat Headrest is an indie-rock band currently based in Seattle. Although there is a full band right now, it’s really a one-man project of Leesburg, Virginia native Will Toledo. Between 2010 and 2014, he digitally self-released 11 home-recorded albums. The project gets its horrible name from the fact that Toledo recorded the vocals for the first couple of albums in the back seat of his car. Apparently, he was too embarrassed to sing in his parents’ house, so he went to parking lots, and did his work there. Toledo went to William & Mary, and continued to home-record albums. At some point very recently, he moved to Seattle, got a full band, and got a contract with Matador Records.
Last year, Toledo released a Car Seat Headrest album called Teens of Style. It’s just a bunch of his older songs reworked and re-recorded. Teens of Denial will be the band’s first studio-recorded album of new material. The album was scheduled for release this Friday May 20, but there’s been a last-minute delay. The album will be released digitally, but the physical copies will be pushed to July, and it has everything to do with Ric Ocasek.
The new album was supposed to feature a song called “Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed”, and that song does appear on initial pressings of the album. Promo copies, advance releases, and things that had already been shipped to distributors. The song’s intro is exactly the intro to “Just What I Needed” by The Cars, and the last verse of the Car Seat Headrest song takes lyrics directly from that Cars song. What’s brilliant, though, is even in lyrics directly lifted from the Cars song, Toledo squeezed in a direct reference to Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair”.
I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wasting all my time
Coz when you’re standing oh so near
I kinda lose my mind. Yeah.
It’s not the way you cut your hair
that’s a pretty nice haircut
Toledo, and the people at Matador Records thought that the lyrics and music had been cleared for use. They had negotiated a contract in good faith, but as it turns out, the publisher didn’t have the authority to complete the license. That’s the boiled-down explanation of the legal aspects of it. Above all, however, Ocasek himself put the kibosh on it. He just “preferred that his work not be included in the song”. Whatever.
Matador will now have to recall and destroy the existing physical copies and remove the Cars reference. The album will come out digitally as planned on May 20, but the song will be replaced with a completely different song called “Not Just What I Needed”. The offending song is included on the digital copy that I have, and it’s a great song, but for obvious reasons, I can’t share it.
Today’s song reminds me a bit of The Dismemberment Plan. At least their Change album. It also reminds me a bit of Ought. Other songs on the album remind me of Guided by Voices.
“Vincent” by Car Seat Headrest
It takes a while for the song to get going, but once it does, I love it. Toledo is known for some clever lyrics, and there’s definitely some of those right out of the gate:
Half the time I want to go home
And half the time I want to go home
If I’m being honest with myself
I haven’t been honest with myself
Between 5:30 and 5:40, he gets a bit shouty in a Stephen Malkmus way, so there’s another connection to Pavement.
Although we don’t know the schedule, we do know that Car Seat Headrest will be at Hopscotch in September, and I’m guessing that it’ll be one of those where the venue reaches capacity quickly. You can check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and you can get your three-days passes here. At some point in June or July, they’ll announce the main stage lineups and they’ll put individual day passes on sale. Then in August, they’ll announce the full schedule.