Since releasing her self-titled debut album back in 2013, Torres – real name Mackenzie Scott – has always had a knack for unflinching honesty, and over the years her lyrical voice has only become stronger and more distinctive. After fulfilling a personal dream and signing to the indie label 4AD to release third album ‘Three Futures’, the American musician felt like she’d truly hit her stride, playing a series of characters and writing astutely about desire, her Southern American roots and even the act of writing itself.
Unfortunately 4AD didn’t agree – and after an acrimonious parting-of-ways, Torres released her latest album ‘Silver Tongue’ on Merge. There, Torres gravitated towards what she’s dubbed ‘Gregorian country’, commenting to Spin that its Stetson-slinging swagger stemmed from her Baptist upbringing in Macon, Georgia. “You make me want to write a country song folks here in New York get a kick out of,” she quipped on ‘Good Scare’, but her soft-focus, watery soundscapes couldn’t always match her ambition.
With this in mind, Torres’ fifth album ‘Thirstier’ marks a welcome gear switch, wasting no time in diving into sand-flecked, fuzzy alt-rock. ‘Are You Sleepwalking?’ sounds like a vintage stadium anthem battling through the speakers of a worn-out old stereo – the guitars flicker in and out of focus like oscillating radio waves, and staticky vocal treatments recall the art-pop of Deerhunter.
Blending woozy waves of electronic with powerful, theatrical vocals, ‘Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes In My Head’ combines ‘Silver Tongue’s thoughtful lyrical content (“If we’re calling off the funеral, then I’m calling for a hitching,” she booms over squalling guitars) with weightier sonics. Channeling the rawness of garage rock, ‘Hug From A Dinosaur’ is a pleasingly surreal song about the day-to-day joy of bringing her girlfriend lunch so that she can keep painting without taking a break.
Psychedelic imagery abounds, too: ‘Constant Tomorrowland’ is all twangling Dirty Projectors-style chamber pop, flowing rivers and magical forests, and is dedicated to the astrological “age of Aquarius” and its expansion of consciousness. Taking cues from dance music, ‘Kiss the Corners’ is hypnotically dreamy. But elsewhere, Torres crashes back down to earth again with a meaningful thud. “I am diabolically truthful,” she sings on ‘Big Leap’, “And I live beyond illusion”.
Torres has previously explored love in a cinematic fashion, but ‘Thirstier’ finds her more concerned with the everyday magic that comes afterwards, when the everyday rituals and shared memories set in. It’s admittedly not the most cohesive album, infatuated with various experimental threads, but it’s also hard to fault this restlessness album, which is punchy and gutsy enough to hold up Torres’ constantly intriguing ideas.
Release date: July 30
Record label: Merge