A couple times a year, I’ll hear a song that steals my breath and doesn’t return it until I’ve spun it at least twenty times. “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head,” the first single from TORRES’ sixth album Thirstier, was that song for me this summer. Described by TORRES (Mackenzie Scott) as her “shameless Tim McGraw cheeseball hit,” it appealed to all my musical pleasure points; an earworm-y melody, growling, emotive vocals, and production begging to grab the sound system of an arena by the throat. When I decided to give the full album a spin, though I was familiar with TORRES before, I knew I had witnessed something new from her; her fire on Thirstier feels inextinguishable.
Rock aesthetics have seen a mainstream resurgence with pop artists like Miley Cyrus, Olivia Rodrigo, and even Billie Eilish on her newly released sophomore album. Though some of the best pop songs of the year came from this confluence, at its very worst, this trend has felt costume-y. In this context, TORRES and her album feel like a breath of fresh air. She lives in the alt-rock universe with a distinct charisma that fans of Miley or Olivia’s rock renaissance should make a point to experience.
An expert vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (she even plays the bouzouki and mandola on “Constant Tomorrowland”), TORRES guides listeners through Thirstier with the kind of roaring confidence that only comes with time. Her ability to coalesce several distinct sounds to create a cohesive record is notable, and her seemingly infinite vocal range is the thread that ties it all together. The opening track “Are You Sleepwalking” and the title track are explosions of grisly alt-rock, and songs like “Constant Tomorrowland” and “Big Leap” add a bit of sonic and lyrical psychedelia to the equation. On the latter, she sings “I am diabolically truthful and I live beyond delusion.” It’s this kind of radical certainty that gives the confident production its fire.
Other highlights of the album include pop-rock banger “A Hug from a Dinosaur,” the other earworm-y single of the album I find myself queuing every time I step out of my apartment. It’s emblematic of the lightness TORRES brings to her exploration of visceral desire (“What comprises all this joy I feel and where was it before/Ancient and еternal and surreal, as a hug from a dinosaur”). It’s also just a wildly fun song to listen to. “Kiss the Corners” is the sonic outlier of the album, a dark club track with a mechanical beat reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s “Oxytocin” (ironically from her sophomore album released the same day as Thirstier). “Drive Me,” a sonic ode to the 90s, recalls Alanis Morisette in the verse and Natalie Imbrugulia in the chorus.
Lyrically, the record explores themes of desire, curiosity, and the relentless pursuit of life’s vigor and verve. It’s starting to become tiring to place new releases in the context of a world grappling with COVID and its consequences for artists and fans, but Thirstier undeniably connects to this moment in the music industry. Concertgoers are beginning to experience the long-awaited catharsis of seeing their favorite acts live again, but the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy are already threatening the certainty of progress. Thirstier speaks to the essential nature of these kinds of experiences; the nights that leave your ears ringing and your mind rattling with a reverence for the community that emerges after a night of live music. It’s also the kind of album that promises to be transformed into a transcendent live show.
The final track, aptly titled, “Keep the Devil Out,” releases all the potential energy that has been building throughout the album in one cathartic explosion. It’s a statement of intent to “make ourselves a new world order,” to never rest in the pursuit of a greater happiness. The lyrics in the first verse speak most clearly to TORRES’ urgent dedication to build a world that allows everyone to experience the visceral joy she sings about on “Thirstier:” “If you only had one song left to sing what would it be? /Go on and sing it to me/I for one am gonna dig us out of here/ I have got all the hope I need / To keep the devil out my ear.”
Thirstier is out now.