A majority of Will Toldeo’s albums as Car Seat Headrest have been born from some kind of resentment. On Twin Fantasy, he resented a relationship turned sour, and on How to Leave Town and Teens of Denial that resentment turned to his surroundings (on Baby My Back is Killing Me you needn’t look past the title). So on Toledo & Co.’s new album Making a Door Less Open, it makes sense that the dissatisfaction has turned towards what they’ve been dealing with the past few years: fame. However, instead of the house-burning stylistic change that was teased by lead single “Can’t Cool Me Down”, MALDO is a relatively safe album by a band that’s shed their skin but unsure about where to go.
In understanding MALDO, it’s important to know that the album was recorded across two different sessions: once as a conventional indie-rock album and once as an EDM remix fueled by the band’s side project One Trait Danger. The result is an album grafted together by those two sessions, and this is more or less where the album fails. MALDO refuses to commit its identity to anything and half the tracklist sounds unfinished. Both iterations of “Deadlines” fall flat, while “Martin” and “Hymn- Remix” begin promising but lack the anthemic endings so many of the best Car Seat Headrest songs have. “Hollywood” and “What’s With You Lately” are some of the worst songs in the band’s discography. Car Seat Headrest has always thrived under Toldedo’s singular vision with the band filling in the blanks around him, and those two aforementioned songs feel like lazy attempts at making the band a more democratic venture if only to buff up the tracklist. MALDO does have its shining moments, however. The album opener “Weightlifters” is the type of song the band became famous for in the first place. It’s a masterclass in prolonged tension across a song and ends with a blazing finish that could imitated by no other band. But the
greatest song on MALDO has to be “There Must Be More Than Blood”. The synths lock into a motorik groove with the drums and the song just hangs there for seven minutes, it’s euphoric.
Making a Door Less Open generally is the first misfire from one of the most exciting bands in indie-rock today but hints the promise of change. If Will Toledo and his band have lost their faith in guitar-based music, good on them. But in order to pull off the promise of electronic music that they claimed “will compete with the other groups at festivals like Coachella”, they’re gonna need a hell of a lot more focus.