Friday, August 20, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1498: Torres

I took the day off today, and while it started with a less pleasant experience (going to the dentist) it is all good from here. I plan to get some tacos from my favourite taco joint, buy some new music, and then meet up with a friend for drinks.

Upon further review, even the dentist was fine; I love that fresh feeling after having my teeth cleaned.

Disc 1498 is…. Thirstier

Artist: Torres

Year of Release: 2021

What’s up with the Cover? Mackenzie Scott (aka Torres) reclines with her guitar between her legs. This cover reminded me of Liz Phair’s 2003 self-titled release although Liz is displaying a bit more wanton abandon, whereas Torres is going for “sexy, but also chill”. Sorry about the generic Liz Phair link – I haven’t reviewed that record yet.

How I Came To Know It: I was already a fan, so this was just me buying her latest when it came out and hoping for the best.

How It Stacks Up: When I last reviewed Torres I only had two of her albums and they were pretty much in a dead heat of awesome. Now I have four, with “Thirstier” in a two way tied with “Three Futures” for the top. The two albums are so different it is hard to separate them or pick one over the other. However, since you didn’t come here to read my equivocations, I’ll put this one in at #2. Tomorrow I may flip it, but that’s a decision for a future me.

Ratings: 4 stars

With each successive album Torres pushes her style and boundaries further. She’s a fearless innovator and – unlike some innovators – still ends up with songs that are beautiful and powerful. Note to songwriters: your song can be as new and different as you like, but it still has to be good.

After pressing the limits of electronica on her last couple of albums, Torres goes more traditional on “Thirstier”. Not quite radio friendly rock/pop, mind you. You can still expect atypical melodic structures and bending the use of traditional instruments to create novel soundscapes. What you can see is Torres taking more traditional forms and seeing what she can create within them. Think about someone locking themselves in a small white room, but then going apeshit painting colours and shapes all over the walls

After a couple of albums that were both erotic and dark, “Thirstier” is a markedly happier record. On “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head” and “Hug from a Dinosaur” I was left with the distinct impression that Torres has found love.

On “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head” the narrator lays the choice bare for her lover: if we’re staying together then get that ring on my finger and be quick about it. The upbeat driving club-feel of the tune tells you she gets a favourable answer from her ultimatum. On “Hug from a Dinosaur” she is positively giddy with love with lines like:

“What comprises all this joy I feel and where was it before?
Ancient and eternal and surreal as a hug from a dinosaur.”

The image is a bit cutesy, but that’s love in full flower, isn’t it? Full of pet names, playful hugs, and impromptu kitchen dancing.

Hug from a Dinosaur” and “Are You Sleepwalking?” also show off Torres’ Camaro rock side, dropping in that fuzzy guitar sound that I appreciate in bands like Ex Hex and Tacocat. I appreciate it here as well, and both tracks are standout headbangers.

Despite the slightly poppier influences, the raw sexual side of Torres is still reflected on this record. “Drive Me” is a slow burner about taking your time in the bedroom, applying the driving imagery of 10 and 2 to other activities that might result in your hands being in those positions. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more (although Torres says plenty more).

And there is still sadness to go around as well. “Big Leap” is a heartbreaking tune about premature loss. The single guitar plucks away hauntingly as Torres sets the scene with:

“I was on my way to see you on the 14th
The morning you fell thirty feet
Your body broken on concrete
Across the country in the Georgia heat.”

The song also features one of Torres’ best vocals performances on the record, showcasing her husky low range and sweet head voice in one song.

As is her nature, Torres drops a bit of electronica into the mix, this time with “Kiss the Corner”. I don’t love electronica, but Torres manages to make me appreciate it at least like it a bit, which is no mean feat.

On the title track she pulls all of the albums influences together. The song has soft introspective sections, where Torres’ vocals hold centre stage, plus a B section that rocks out with anthemic thump. The range and interest of the record, combined with her innovative use of rock traditions had me thinking favourably of St. Vincent and Liz Phair. Those are two of my favourite artists, and with the consistently great work Torres is putting out, she is fast putting herself on the same list.

Best tracks: Are You Sleepwalking?, Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in my Head, Drive Me, Big Leap, Hug From a Dinosaur, Thirstier

No comments: