Mackenzie Scott has been at this for a while. When she emerged under the name Torres in 2013, she came with a backstory that has become increasingly familiar in indie rock. After growing up in a conservative religious household, she turned to music to document her complicated relationship with faith and her sheltered upbringing. Informed by her affection for country and a teenage obsession with Broadway, her songs were blistering and raw and narrative-based. Scott has a sharp wit — something she directly acknowledged with the title of last year’s Silver Tongue — and her songs are backdrops for showing off that lyrical prowess. Over the course of four albums, she’s interrogated her profession as a songwriter and come to terms with her queer identity; she has written about love and heartbreak and mortality and the future.
That personal search has been met with a stylistic restlessness. Her early albums’ skeletal guitars gave way to pounding, glowering synths on 2017’s Three Futures; Silver Tongue melded those sounds together and was paired with an eclecticism brought about by necessity after she had to record it on her own when she was dropped by her label at the time. Some of these sounds worked better than others — Silver Tongue in particular suffered from the feeling that Scott was being pulled in too many directions at once. I’ve liked a lot of Torres songs over the years, but she’s never blown me away the way that she so consistently does on her new album Thirstier. There’s nothing demonstrably different about her fifth full-length than what has come before, but everything just clicks in a bigger and more impactful way. Scott has been dedicated to her craft over the past decade and you can hear the breadth of that experience on Thirstier. It’s the best Torres has ever been.
It was evident that Torres had made the leap with lead single “Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes In My Head.” It’s anthemic and attention-grabbing in a way that Scott had never really managed before. Scott attributed the elated nature of “Wishes” and the album as a whole to joy — finding stability and happiness after a long search for both. “I’ve been conjuring this deep, deep joy that I honestly didn’t feel for most of my life,” she said as a way to introduce the song. “I feel like a rock within myself. And I’ve started to feel that I have what it takes to help other people conjure their joy, too.” “Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes In My Head” is a rocket-blast of energy, an infectious declaration of steadfast devotion that lets Scott’s characteristic tumble of words coalesce into a soaring hook.
“Hug From A Dinosaur” taps into a similar vein, with chomping guitars and a reckless abandon that positions love as a prehistoric achievement. “Before my wild happiness, who was I if not yours?” Scott asks, likening this new rush of feeling to a “truth [that’s] ancient and eternal and surreal as a hug from a dinosaur.” The album’s crowning achievement is its title track, which starts off with some “Come Clean“-esque twinkles before launching into a blaze of sonic fireworks. It’s another song about how unbelievably happy Scott is now that she’s found herself in a relationship that feels like it’s going to last forever. “Baby, keep me in your fantasies/ Baby, even though you live with me/ The more I look, the more I see,” she sings. “As long as I’m around, I’ll be lookin’ for nerves to hit/ The more of you I drink, the thirstier I get.” Love is a wellspring, and Scott just can’t get enough.
All this manages to sound completely invigorating. After self-producing her last album, Scott reunited with Rob Ellis and linked up with producer Peter Miles, and together they helped bring Torres’ expanding ambitions to life by making her most bombastic and brash album yet. Thirstier packs in monster hook after monster hook, with dense layers of crashing drums and whirring synths and bells-and-whistles that push each song to the next level. “Drive Me” is especially successful in that regard, crunchy and imposing and constantly building on itself. Even the album’s handful of quieter moments — “Big Leap” and the twitchy, dance-adjacent “Kiss The Corners” — feel momentous, crisp and laser-focused.
Throughout Thirstier, Scott is fixated on what comes next. In the same way that Scott has chased her muse over the past decade in new directions, she wants to translate that zeal into the rest of her life. Now that she’s settled down into a successful relationship, both creatively and romantically, she sounds ready to take on the world. “I’m gonna chase the answers with you,” she insists on the sweaty opening number “Are You Sleepwalking?” There’s a song called “Constant Tomorrowland” that taps into the mysticism of the cosmos. “It’s not that we’re there, but we’ve nearly arrived,” she sings on that one. “A future before us of highest design.” Letting yourself get excited about the future means accepting a certain amount of uncertainty. On the album’s chaotic closer, amid a squeal of guitars that approaches a demonic fervor, Scott repeats: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there.” By giving herself over to the unknown, Scott has never sounded more sure of herself than she does on Thirstier. It’s an achievement that only could have come with years of struggling, searching for the right answers and realizing that no answers are all right after all.
Thirstier is out 7/30 via Merge. Pre-order it here.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever
• Prince’s Welcome 2 America
• Alan Vega’s Alan Vega After Dark
• LUMP’s Animal
• Yola’s Stand For Myself
• Bleachers’ Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night
• Isaiah Rashad’s The House Is Burning
• DāM-FunK’s Above The Fray
• King Woman’s Celestial Blues
• Section H8’s Welcome To The Nightmare
• Skirts’ Great Big Wild Oak
• Son Volt’s Electro Melodier
• koleżanka’s Place Is
• Jim Lauderdale’s Hope
• Electric Six’s Streets Of Gold
• Dot Allison’s Heart-Shaped Scars
• Dee Snider’s Leave A Scar
• Los Lobos’ Native Sons
• Shirley Collins’ Crowlink EP
• Skepta’s All In EP
• My Idea’s That’s My Idea EP
• mui zyu’s a wonderful thing vomits EP
• The Tubs’ Names EP