Tearing Up The Rules Of The Album

Ars Technica:

Teens of Denial couldn’t possibly exist 15 years ago—least of all because songwriter Will Toledo hadn’t yet turned 10 years old. Toledo instead stands as a “new” voice among a younger generation of musicians (ala Chance The Rapper, age 23, or Torres, age 25) who grew up alongside our current digital music ecosystem. As such, Car Seat Headrest’s first original album for a label represents a culmination of many changes the industry has gone through in the past decade-plus: instant accessibility to vast catalogues; the democratization of recording and releasing; the need to share it all immediately.

Perhaps equally as important as making the music, Toledo always had a home for it. His first release (called 1) dates back to spring 2010, and it still lives on Bandcamp (which itself dates back to 2007). At the age of 23, Toledo already has 11 albums and an EP to his name on the Car Seat Headrest Bandcamp page (Teens of Denial will make it an even dozen).

Toledo’s first release for Matador, last year’s Teens of Style, didn’t include a single new song. Instead, the label wanted Car Seat Headrest partially because of this built-up history. Teens of Style essentially acts as a best-of for Toledo’s Bandcamp output, although the musician re-recorded each selected track. This highlights perhaps the most modern characteristic of Car Seat Headrest: any song can be a continuous work in progress.

Over the years, Toledo has kept a consistent presence on Tumblr (a service that coincidentally started the same year as Bandcamp). He posts plenty of ideas and early demos, including a recent Radiohead tribute. This transparency and symbiotic interaction with fans became part of his process. So whenever Toledo made the types of sweeping changes that services like iTunes might demonize, “people commented, but now people don’t really remember that was a thing.”

You may have heard about someone else trying a similar approach earlier this year. Kanye West released his Tidal faux-exclusive The Life of Pablo on February 14, tweaked some tracks in mid-March, and then shocked fans by producing an almost entirely new version on March 31. “What Kanye is doing is a lot more recognizable to younger people who are more used to this sort of low-key LP release,” {Toldeo} said. “Even with official LPs, people get leaks and half-finished versions before the album actually drops, and this only became prevalent with the Internet. People today are used to the having the LP come into shape more slowly and not get dropped all at once, so what Kanye did was brilliant. He got so much shit for it being a disastrous release or whatever, but that’s not what I saw. He understood the power of the Internet, and he was using his massive celebrity to use Tidal like it was the next Bandcamp.”