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A deep reading of Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy”

Art by Ket Gill

Twelve years ago, Will Toledo transferred from Virginia Commonwealth University to The College of William and Mary, citing his feelings of anxiety and isolation as his reasoning. Born from that transfer would become one of Toledo’s most prolific and popular works, the concept album Twin Fantasy. The album was an exploration of his long-distance relationship and the feeling of incredible loneliness he felt throughout his youth. The ten track long album has had several releases. The initial release in 2011 allegedly only received about 100 downloads, but within the next 10 years, Twin Fantasy would evolve into one of the most respected and recognizable albums in Will Toledo’s discography.

Album cover concept art by Will Toledo
William! Let me out!

Who is Will Toledo? Normally, I would divulge information about stage names and what his “real” name is, but honestly, the implication that in order to “know” everything about an artist you must pry into a name barely connected to their identities as artists has always been strange to me. Maybe this is the perfect segment for me to level with readers and contextualize myself as much as I wish to contextualize Mr. Toledo. The only important thing to consider about myself as an author in this specific scenario is that I am transgender, and understanding Twin Fantasy from my perspective has really allowed me to truly view Twin Fantasy in a way I (and I only) assume how Toledo wants it to be viewed.

(right to left) Will Toledo, Ethan Ives, Seth Dalby, and Andrew Katz Via: Matador Records

Will Toledo is the frontman of Car Seat Headrest, a band that expanded from his heart outward. Starting it alone in the backseat of his car, reaching out to a wide audience of alienated people. Today, Toledo records and tours with a set group of performers, himself on vocals, Andrew Katz on drums, Seth Dalby on bass, and Ethan Ives on guitar. For a long time, Car Seat Headrest was portrayed pretty strongly as “The Will Toledo Show” until recently. This makes the vast majority of their early work entirely dependent on Toledo for construction. Katz, Ives, and Dalby were all not in Car Seat Headrest when Twin Fantasy was written, making the album a personal work of Will Toledo’s.

Privacy, putting it in the back seat.

Before the final analysis, I would like to make a few things very clear. I will be discussing the subject of Twin Fantasy in a way that respects the privacy of Will Toledo’s former partner, Cate Wurtz. To be concise, Cate is a transgender woman, and came out after her breakup with Toledo. This explains the differences between the 2011 version of the album and the 2018 version, some songs (excluding My Boy) were amended to have a more ambiguously gendered narrative focus. This does not make Twin Fantasy any less of a queer album. It still tells a story about the experience of two queer people, whatever the nature of the relationship is. Journalism has a rough history with privacy in regard to gay and trans people (trans people especially). As a gay and transgender journalist, I am obligated to exercise extreme caution with this analysis.

Twin Fantasy Album cover
Twin Fantasy: Song to Song

The following analyses will be of the 2018 versions with two exceptions: Nervous Young Inhumans, and Famous Prophets (Minds)/(Stars). Both of these songs change in excess between Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), the 2018 version, and Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror), the 2011 version.

My Boy EP cover

My Boy

My boy, we don't see each other much

My boy, we don't see each other much

It'll take some time, but somewhere down the line

We won't be alone

My Boy is very straightforward. The singer has a boy, and they don’t see each other much. My Boy is an idealistic vision of the singer’s long-distance relationship. It’s truly the most positive-facing song in the album, they might be alone now- soon they will not be.

Beach Life-In-Death EP cover
Beach Life-in-Death

It's not enough to love th