Pryor Stroud: Writing and performing under the moniker Car Seat Headrest, Will Toledo crafts DIY, indie-punk sketches that sound like alchemical mixtures of the lo-fi noise rock of Cloud Nothings and the guitar-centric alt-pop of Pavement. In “Fill in the Blank”, he wields an indomitably bright and propulsive melody to vent about his existential anxieties, and when he attacks certain notes, yelping them out toward the rafters of the production, you can almost believe that the track has help him reach some sort of catharsis. But the final chorus reveals this belief to be an unequivocal falsehood: “I’ve got a right to be depressed / I’ve given every inch I had to fight it,” Toledo sings, and while he may be resigned to the fact of his depression, it’s difficult not to imagine “Fill in the Blank” as a bit of this fight still left in him. [9/10]
John Tryneski: As a “lyrics guy”, I have to appreciate Car Seat Headrest. Starting as a bedroom recording project, Will Toledo hasn’t dropped his focus on meaning and verbal connection with his audience as he’s turned his music into a full-band project. “Fill in the Blank” is the second song released off Teens of Denial and, like the lead single “Killer Whales/Drunk Drivers”, it comes in the form of a lyric video. “Fill in the Blank” also sounds like the album-opener that it is featuring energetic guitars with just enough crackle and scratch to burrow into the back of your brain. They provide a sense of surging optimism that cuts against the reflective lyrics. Toledo sings with a clear-eyed defiance at the idea that true sadness, depression, etc, cannot be genuine until they’ve been “earned” through life experience. Although the song could not sound more like it was written in the throes of adolescence, the message functions as a reminder to all any listener that no one need justify their emotions whatever their age, status or other circumstance. [8/10]
Chris Ingalls: It’s like Dinosaur Jr. meet the Kinks in a dirty garage. The wealth of careening, melodic guitars blend in well with the Ray Davies sound-alike vocals. A nice throwback to punk-fueled power pop. I hate the band name, but this is a band that’s sure to amass a nice following. What’s not to like? [8/10]
Emmanuel Elone: Car Seat Headrest’s new song is almost guaranteed to get some radio play. From the ear worm guitar riff that repeats throughout most of the song to the nondescript vocals that are more melodic and impassioned than the singer would have one believe, “Fill in the Blank” is a pretty great indie rock hit. It isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, but it is good for what it is, and will make for an excellent spring/summer single. [7/10]
Chad Miller: A fun (at least soundwise) song asserting the right to be depressed while showing how ridiculous the arguments against the assertion is.The song has a really good grasp of when to bring out the guitar and the drums, creating a lot of cool shifts in the course of the piece. [8/10]
Kevin Korber: This started off cool enough, but I’ve listened to this three times and I couldn’t tell you much about Car Seat Headrest beyond “rock band who plays guitars and things”. I guess that’s something to aspire to. [5/10]
Car Seat Headrest’s new album, Teens of Denial, releases May 20th via Matador Records.