I’ve spent the year wandering all over musical maps and past eras. This turned out to be a good strategy since 2016 itself was such a turd of a year.
But something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
There are a whole bunch of records I’ve gotten this year that were either fun, educational, deep, wide, etc. And as good as they all were - and there are a few I haven’t bothered to mention yet - there haven’t been any that I’d call great. Or Great.
Then it hit me. How about something new? How about something from THIS year? I might have thought of this before but the whole year’s been like kryptonite so why would I bother with its music?
So I finally broke down and got something that I hoped would be worthwhile. What I got, though, is undeniably Great.
And I’m glad I got it after the election. Otherwise, it might have been ruined. It would have added to my depression with me blaming myself for getting distracted by a record instead of oh, participating in our democratic experiment.
Instead, I got it at exactly the right time. And now, I can enjoy it as pure “deal with the sh*t with a shout” music.
Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (2016)
Will Toledo is a nerdy-looking young man:
(see?) with a nasal voice a la Jonathan Richman, although I do hear a stressed out Ray Davies, too. In other words, not what you'd think of as a typical rock n' roller.
He writes lyrics about depression, boredom and drunk driving, and attaches them to great rock and roll music. He’s got a tight little band that is very sympathetic to those musical and lyrical leanings.
There is nothing revolutionary here. But the tunes have the deft chord changes that you know in your bones but haven’t heard put to such good use in decades.
Lyrics filled with pain and insight and even humor. Surges and swells in all the right places. And even the rock n roll cliches (organ swells, shouted refrains, etc.) sound fresh.
Oh, it’s caused some controversies. It was playing during a tense thirty-minute "family discussion". And it refused to play in the car a couple of times. I have a sneaky feeling my son hates it, and that my wife thinks I love it more than I love her. (Not true, sweetheart!)
And everyone in the house is either talking to me when I try to play it, or telling me to turn it down when I do.
Ah, but it’s the troublesome ones that you love the most, isn’t it? (Not really, but in this case, oh so true.) Plus, Mrs. Jaybee is coming around.
This is the best rock and roll record I’ve heard in ages, and the best record, both of the year 2016 (like I’d know) and my year, including all the other stuff I’ve gotten from 1725 through 2015.
In this time when there hasn’t been all that much to be joyful about, this record gives me hope. And that’s all I want.
I find myself wanting to shout some of the choruses in public.
And what better recommendation is that?
“Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”