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(The original versions can be found on Car Seat's Bandcamp.) The new recordings retain their rough edge, but there's luminescence in the production—the percussion is crisper, the guitars are brighter, and Toledo's singing is a lot more pronounced.The effect is an album that's bookish, but not sedentary.A self-summarization comes on the brawny "Strangers", when he deadpans a series of autobiographical quips: "Car seat is a menace to the public," "Car seat is a genetic stop sign," "Car seat's nervous and the lights are bright." On that song, we find out the young Toledo fell in love with Michael Stipe: "I took lyrics out of context and thought, 'he must be speaking to me.'" His confusion over purposefully abstract lyrics may have turned him into a literalist, someone endeavoring to explain every twist and turn of his interior state.His lyrics are rapaciously intelligent, with a knack for wry humor.
In this way, he's a cousin of artists like Joanna Newsom, Bright Eyes, or Okkervil River, who never let their prodigious literary intelligence get in the way of crafting something you might actually enjoy listening to.
(Teens of Denial, a planned 2016 release, will be his first Matador album of entirely new material.) You can hear the revised sound as a composite of the label's history: Guided by Voices' ear for cracked pop oddities, Belle and Sebastian's emotional directness, Yo La Tengo's intimate approach to jamming, Stephen Malkmus' ability to get wordy without forgetting to rock out.
As a songwriter, Toledo is both present and detached, capable of living in a moment while floating above it.
To (sort of) quote Brandon Flowers: He's human and rocker.
Take a lyrical adjustment on the new recordings, for example, that reflects the shift in his life status: "Times to Die" swaps a couplet about sneaking his way to musical success into a meditation on the existence of a higher power, like God or (even better) Matador founder Chris Lombardi ("Got to have faith in the one above me/ Got to believe that Lombardi loves me"), who will help decide whether or not Toledo is destined to be a cult hero.
Teens of Style has a noticeably jagged quality; unbelievably, it used to sound even DIY-ier.