Car Seat Headrest
(Matador *** 1/2)
Between 2010 and 2013, Will Toledo, the then-Richmond, Va., and now Seattle auteur who records as Car Seat Headrest, put out a whopping eight albums on the online music site Bandcamp.
He’s slowed down considerably since, releasing only Teens of Style, which featured new versions of previously released songs, in 2015, and the all-new Teens of Denial the next year. Twin Fantasy is another example of Toledo revisiting his recent past: It’s a complete reprise of his 2011 self-released album of the same name, beefed up with vastly better studio standards, some fresh lyrics (including a Frank Ocean reference in “Cute Thing”), and plenty of evidence of musical growth in the intervening years. From the multipart album centerpiece “Beach Life-in-Death” to the organ-driven closer “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys),” it’s packed with ideas and winning wit, and Toledo’s tinkering unquestionably improves the revamped product. Still, here’s hoping he gets back to writing new songs the next time out. — Dan DeLuca
Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt
After the punkish rush of his recent albums with the Void Pacific Choir – 2016’s These Systems Are Failing, and 2017’s More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse – Moby returns to his gospel-influenced, trip-hoppy roots with his 15th record. That seems simple, the idea of an artist returning to his past. But with Moby’s output in the 2000s, returning – rather than innovating as he did in the ’90s – has become de rigueur. Moby’s been there, done that twice over, literally.
The overall tone and tremor of Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt? Listen to his mega-selling, soft-hop Play. The holy, elegiac roll of new music such as “The Ceremony of Innocence” and “Welcome to Hard Times” have the reverent but rubbery grooving vibe of Play. Moby’s new “Like a Motherless Child,” a reworking of the traditional work song of the slavery-era “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child” is gorgeous, plaintive and Play-prayerful. That would be lousy, stupid, and copy-cattish if not for the fact that Moby always forwards his aesthetic by fashioning a mean and memorable melody, a riveting imaginative pulse and a vocal line – his flat-lining tone, along with soulful guests such as Raquel Rodriguez – that tugs on your tear ducts. So maybe Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt isn’t an epiphany when it comes to Moby’s catalog. Luckily, its tunes and gospel comforts are. — A.D. Amorosi
(4AD, *** stars)
It’s been 25 years since the Breeders released their classic Last Splash, with its alternative rock favorites “Cannonball” and “Divine Hammer,” but the band’s influence can be felt in current artists such as Philadelphia’s Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett. Drug problems and intra-band squabbles caused the dissolution of the group, and three subsequent Breeders albums featured Kim and Kelley Deal with different lineups. All Nerve, however, reunites the guitar-playing Deal sisters with their Last Splash bandmates, bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson. It’s a surprisingly solid return to form.
Opener “Nervous Mary” sets the tone: a slow, minor-key melody is suddenly interrupted with serrated guitar chords and emphatic drums, and the Deal sisters’ unison vocals will sound immediately familiar to any ’90s-era MTV fans. Fortunately, All Nerve sounds vital rather than facilely nostalgic: the stop-start “Wait in the Car” is sharp and raucous, the buzzing “Howl at the Summit” (with Barnett on backing vocals) is heavy and triumphant, the Amon Duul cover “Archangel’s Thunderbird” is an oddball rocker. Turns out Last Splash wasn’t one. — Steve Klinge