Car Seat Headrest @ Broadcast, 23 June

Review by Chris McCall | 29 Jun 2016

James Hindle of The Pooches has left his bandmates at home for his opening set tonight. The songwriter has just an acoustic guitar for company, but fills the room with an assured set of his wistful takes on human relationships. His laidback approach is appropriate, setting the tone for a show heavy on emotional honesty but low on energy.

Car Seat Headrest arrive in Glasgow as a fully-formed band with a growing pile of rave reviews for Teens of Denial, their second album for Matador which was released to much fanfare in May. But appearances can be deceptive. The Seattle-based group are essentially hired-hands, here to support the singular talents of Will Toledo.

The 23-year-old has been home-recording and uploading tracks to platforms like SoundCloud for most of his adult life. Look online and you'll already find a dozen albums of varying quality, the best tracks from which were re-recorded for last year's Matador debut Teens of Style. Songs like Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales, with its pleading chorus of "It doesn't have to be like this!", are lapped up by the sell-out crowd, many of whom have travelled sizeable distances to be here. 

Toledo's songwriting – which veers from the confessional to the downright surreal – calls to mind titans of alt-rock like Stephen Malkmus, but it's easy detect a more local influence as well. His direct approach to the kinds of emotional problems encountered by shy men in their early 20s is reminscent of Stuart Murdoch – minus the obsession with late '80s indiepop.

While there's no denying Toledo's talent, he's yet to fully transfer his songwriting prowess into a commanding stage presence. Tonight's set is punctuated by awkward silence between songs, and his soft vocals are too often lost in the mix or drowned out by general chatter in the room. In fairness, he has previously admitted that live performance is sometimes a struggle for him, but with a solid band at his back, we can be confident that Car Seat Headrest shows will soon match the obvious quality of the source material.