“I’m so sick of… fill in the blank,” Will Toledo remarks, his words resonating with a quality foreign to his previous 12 albums. The implication of this first sentiment creates an immediate irony, as it exists in contrast with the uncompromising nature of the entirety of Teens of Denial. It’s plain to see from the start that Will is confident with his lyrics; his ease of his vocal delivery seems characteristic of his nature now. “Fill in the Blank” also suggests a transparent accessibility, but this complacency is soon interrupted by the lingering guitar introduction of “Vincent,” the first of many sprawling pieces on the album. Clocking in at nearly eight minutes, this track more accurately foreshadows the eccentricities that are to follow on Car Seat Headrest’s latest musical venture.
Uncommon themes are presented matter-of-factly throughout Teens of Denial; it seems clear that the thoughts shared are ones that have been revisited and further developed through periodic self-reflection. As a result, listeners may find themselves hard-pressed to find a throwaway line, as nearly everything is emotionally charged. On “1937 State Park,” Will laments, “I didn’t want you to hear/that shake in my voice/My pain is my own…”
Will’s words are weighty to both creator and listener, reaching levels of jarring honesty reminiscent of Father John Misty. This honesty makes Teens of Denial almost abrasive, but, much like a great fiction novel, it retains its relatability. Sprinkled throughout the record are crystallizing moments of profundity, and Will’s wisdom is showcased in Parquet Courts-esque tangents. These surface in attention-grabbing lines that reflect Will’s seemingly unrelenting state of introspection. This introspection comes to a head in the growing pains of the 11-minute epic “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia,” in which Toledo explodes, reigniting the vivacious energy of the first half of the record. It’s a deeply personal existential crisis, and Will spares no time articulating precisely what he feels, paying little mind to the constraints of traditional songwriting: “How was I supposed to know how to hold a job?/How was I supposed to know how to not get drunk every/Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and — why not — Sunday?/How was I supposed to know how steer this ship?”
The dispersion of energy throughout Teens of Denial sometimes succumbs to the record’s seventy-minute runtime, but these lulls are not for lack of charm. Rather, it seems that at times the instrumentation is unsure whether it intends to be rudimentary or experimental in nature. The uneasiness of this juxtaposition is brief, and it always eventually resolves itself in the grandiose narratives in Will’s longer tracks. These ambitious undertakings feel like masterfully developed indulgences, and the result of their inclusion is an incredible cohesive honesty unlike anything in contemporary indie rock. This record is a reflection of Will Toledo’s life, insecurities, and growth as an artist.