I set up Google Analytics for this site the other night and that feels like a bad omen. Everything I do feels terminally short-lived – I always know I’m going to eventually return to lying on top of my bed refreshing the same three websites at some stage, so it often seems as if I either milk whatever productivity bursts I have to all hell or just count down the days until everything falls apart. Without fail each time I write something for this blog I become genuinely convinced that I’ll lose the ability to put words together for a few months and I’m half-convinced that this fear is exactly why this blog has been consistently updated since mid-April – if I think too much this will all fall apart, which is ironic since my whole personality is based around constantly overthinking. This heavily applies to the music I cover on here, I often find myself picking albums to cover five minutes before starting a draft and I will usually start off aiming to cover two artists but then waste too many words on the first to warrant another ham-fisted paragraph where I cry about how an album sounds like the Internet – I have genuinely no idea as to what I’m doing each week and I jokingly admit as such to make incompetence seem like self-awareness, hence why these posts all have the same opening where I half-jokingly apologize for being incapable of using words properly, give a vague update as to how much writer’s block I’m currently feeling, and spend as much time as possible dodging the actual topic. Now that I’ve actually pointed this out (ignore that I do as such every single week) I guess this means I have to actually start writing about music now, something which I actively dread (or at least it seems as such based on all these blog posts).
When I first listened to ‘Mukbang’ I was obsessed with what it was not – mainly an Iglooghost full-length. I’d been waiting for information on ‘Neo Wax Bloom’ for what felt like ages and had somehow deluded myself into thinking it was going to drop by the end of the summer. I’d get up each day, listen to ‘Little Grids’ and ‘Milk Empire’ over and over until I got bored, and then check social media to see if any new material surfaced – gradually driving myself insane in the process. Through this dumb feedback loop I ended up finding the Vice link article on this mixtape, assuming the Iglooghost co-sign meant that it could work as a stopgap obsession while I waited for ‘Neo Wax Bloom’ to materialize. Kai Whiston released this thirty-five-minute tape to celebrate finishing school, throwing together hyperactive beats and remixes he’d been working on between ominous samples of YouTube videos about hybrid alien sons (your guess is as good as mine) in a dizzying combination that quickly moved beyond just being a temporary stopgap. Kai’s sound has been aptly described by Alexander Iadarola as sounding like a “3D-Rendered Food Fight”, influences and samples fly past at the same rate as a speedrunner’s Twitch chat – creating an original sound that’s both deeply intricate and overwhelming. This mixtape doesn’t give you any real breathing space, throwing you headfirst into the batshit insane, hyper-online world it evokes. If I was even more of a hack I’d compare this record to the concept of the hyperlink as seen through the eyes of some arsehole philosopher in the early 90s, we jump around instantly without fully comprehending what we heard last. For the longest while I was convinced that this record sampled a PS4 sound effect yet I never recognized as such until I was halfway through the next track and I feel as if that anecdote captures what makes ‘Mukbang’ so captivating. This mixtape feels like the experience of accelerating out of some form of stasis, a feeling I’ve been chasing lately to prevent myself from staring at the ceiling and being gothic for too long.
Another aspect of ‘Mukbang’ which I find deeply interesting is how much of it went on to be recycled in Kai’s proper releases – ‘Lux’ and ‘Brain Fritta’ were expanded on in his debut album and ‘Teeth Chisel’ became ‘Teef Chizzel’ in XYZ, a collaborative record released last year under the Gloo imprint. It’d be incorrect to say that the tracks in ‘Mukbang’ feel incomplete (especially considering how much goes on in each song), but seeing these tracks evolve over time offers us an oddly-interesting glimpse at one of the main ways that the Internet changed our relationship with music. It seems as if the Internet has permanently opened up the studio to those obsessed with a certain artist to the point of paying active attention – albums no longer release, they now just get teased into oblivion on Instagram Live and gradually leak through shite quality YouTube rips and vertical iPhone videos. Playboi Carti performs a “new” song live only for his fans to know all the lyrics off by heart and BROCKHAMPTON fans compile complete fanmade versions of an album that’ll (probably) never see the light of day. The Internet has arguably demystified music on a fundamental level – we’re all now painfully aware of the fact that the music we obsess over is made by an actual person and we all now have equal access to the synths, breakbeats, and samples that make up some of our favourite tracks (if you ignore legality that is, which you should). This isn’t a bad thing per se (if anything it’s good for those of us who actually search out for snippets), it just means that we interact differently than we would have before. It’s now perfectly possible for us to fall in love with fourty-seconds of a song six months before hearing the rest of it and that’s just objectively quite interesting. ‘Mukbang’ is great because it offers us a glimpse into this process – it feels like a transitional release (I mean he did put it together as he finished school) that would only work in our current era, making it extremely exciting as a result.
I’d intentionally avoided listening to either version of ‘Twin Fantasy’ for what seemed like ages in the hopes of saving it for a major moment in my life (or just a night where I had no idea what to write about) but I blew that promise to myself while drinking last week and I feel like I need to write about that experience to make up for it. Will Toledo’s songwriting defined my life for the longest while in ways that still reverberate to this day to the point where I’m actively scared to write about Will’s work out of fear of not capturing everything I felt perfectly. Car Seat Headrest’s discography spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t fully experienced before from both music or face-to-face interaction at the time I discovered it – their awkward low fidelity anthems about coming out on Skype, failing to understand others, and getting mad at the sun for making mindlessly looking at your laptop harder made me feel slightly less alone at a point where I felt extremely alienated from everything and everyone. The 2011 version of ‘Twin Fantasy’ essentially served as this mythical (yet comforting) escape fantasy from my life, each day I’d come home and comfort eat to it while imagining some far-off world where I could connect with others outside of the Internet and stand in bleak-looking train stations after doing so. One of my favourite pieces of writing (and arguably the main thing I rip off in every music post I put up on this blog) is “Y’all Mind If I Drink A Whole Thing of Raspberry Lemonade Vodka and Yell About Twin Fantasy?”, a blog post where someone gets rapidly shitfaced as they perfectly capture what made ‘Twin Fantasy’ mean so much at the time. “So what, then, is Twin Fantasy about? It’s about how when you’re a teenager and you’re queer and you’ve never had a relationship before and you’ve never related to anyone in your peer group before and you meet someone online who GETS you, it will fuck your entire life up! There’s shit on here that is universally relatable, but unless you’ve been in that exact situation, staying up until three o’clock in the morning to exchange heartfelt, earnest messages with the person you’re in love with who lives in a different country eight timezones ahead, you’re not going to really get it”.
I remember being extremely hyped for the 2018 remake of ‘Twin Fantasy’ for what seemed like three months*,* going on a melodramatic walk the day that it leaked in order to enhance the experience, listening to it twice in the week that followed, and then promptly forgetting about it. I held a lot of respect for the record and felt proud for Will but the record never fully clicked – I could appreciate what it stood for (and feel like an English teacher when I talked to people about it) but it never entered heavy rotation and was promptly forgotten about as I chased after other genres and releases. The 2018 version of ‘Twin Fantasy’ felt like an artistic statement, a reinterpretation and rearrangement of the emotions that fueled the original release – anthems about the birth (and swift death) of a relationship were now about the experience of having your dirty laundry constantly resurfaced by (supposedly) well-meaning obsessives who related to your past experiences a bit too much and that felt powerful. Just in the same way that Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Nervous Young Man’ marked the (near) end of his bedroom produced era, the remake of ‘Twin Fantasy’ felt like a final burial of the emotions that inspired it – “The contract is up. The names have been changed. […] These are only lyrics now”. Will’s declaration that “anything can happen from here” towards the end of “Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)” still feels powerful to this day, even if this post-‘Twin Fantasy’ era of the Car Seat Headrest discography hasn’t really been my cup of tea (to say the least).
As I sat there outside at half-five in the morning (somehow still shitfaced) it dawned on me that the distance I’d given this album let me appreciate it fully. The wounds that made Car Seat Headrest mean so much to me have gradually healed (or just taken on new forms) over the past two years and I can now look at this remake from a perspective which aligns more to the one that Will had when he recorded it. The intensity has taken on a different form and I can now glean proper enjoyment where I once just had a vague understanding – that or I just need to avoid drinking on weeknights. I was going to end this post by embedding the band’s performance of ‘Bodys’ on Jimmy Fallon but the one place I could actually find it was some obscure Chinese YouTube-clone so I’ve no idea if my blogging software will let me. I remember writing an extremely sappy essay about Car Seat Headrest’s discography at some point in 2018 (which thankfully never went online) that used this performance as a convenient ending to my ramble – Will’s constant anxiety that defined his early work has been traded for cool self-awareness and the band seem utterly unapologetic. ‘Bodys’ was always based around a sudden burst of emotion but it felt as if the band were suddenly perfectly okay with that fact, revelling in the freedom of overcoming the baggage attached to the original release. My favourite part of this performance starts around the 2:56 mark – Will stares into the audience as the track abruptly grinds to a halt and goes “Normally we’d do a bit of a breakdown here but we only have fifty seconds left so we’re just going to go right to the final chorus”. The audience laughs a little, the chorus starts, and they start to cheer.