How do you like your albums to open? With a direct statement of intent, like on Leon Bridges’ Gold-Diggers Sound? Maybe a spoken word intro, like on Chet Faker’s Hotel Surrender? There’s always the classic overture, most recently found on Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee. Me? I like a direct punch to the gut or a straight shot of adrenaline straight to the brain — the more violent, the better. No pretence, no bullshit, just diving headfirst into the excitement. Don’t bore us; get to the core of what you want us to see.
This is why I immediately liked Thirstier, indie rocker Torres’ fifth studio effort. ‘Are You Sleepwalking’, the album’s opening track, explicitly works to pull you out of any lethargic state you might be in. A guitar squeals, the feedback drives itself like an icepick into your frontal lobe, and you’re catapulted immediately into this dark, twisted rollercoaster of fun that Torres has crafted especially for you.
From there, the album doesn’t let you stop and breathe for a single solitary second. Following track ‘Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head’ makes sure your attention doesn’t wander, and as each subsequent song unfurls, even the slower and more ambient musical sections are designed to keep your focus from lapsing. ‘Drive Me’, ‘Hug From a Dinosaur’, and ‘Hand in the Air’ all grab you by the shirt and don’t let go.
Torres claims that the primary inspiration behind the album’s sound was alt-rock architect Butch Vig, whose monoliths of guitars production style made Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream seem absolutely ginormous. That same devotion to gargantuan tones and combustible rhythms is found here, although even Kurt Cobain would be jealous of how expertly Torres mixes aggressive punk rock punch with more tender moments of pop catchiness.
If you’re one of those types who bemoan the loss of four-chord rock and roll, well, then the good news is this: Thirstier has ten tracks that are simple, straightforward, and absolutely badass rock tunes. If you need more weight to sustain your attention, feel free to dissect the album’s lyrics, which find Torres at her funniest, saddest, and most erudite. After a decade of fuzzy and more nebulous lyrical passages, Thirstier solidifies Torres’ unique ability to communicate the most confusing aspects of love, faith, angst, and power into an incredibly relatable and easily understood package.
Sometimes the album feels the need to get slightly experimental: the loopy drum machine that starts ‘Kiss the Corners’ and the St. Vincent-esque alien rock of album closer ‘Keep the Devil Out’ come to mind. But too often artists that attempt new and incongruous sounds do so out of boredom or to disrupt the flow of the music. Torres obviously mapped out the entire album in her head and made deliberate choices that added interesting new colours, not obstructive obstacles, to further the album’s central themes and sounds. It all works together as a whole, and that takes a greater understanding of arranging and producing than most musicians are capable of having.
This is all to say that Thirstier is the apotheosis of Torres’ career thus far. It’s an album of refinement and growth, one that feels earned for an artist who has spent the last decade finding the best version of herself. There’s an old maxim for jazz musicians that as long as you start and end in the same place, the rest doesn’t matter. I love the start and the end of Thirstier, but Torres clearly has bigger ambitions than simply starting and ending in the right place.
Thirstier, by Torres, is due for release on July 30th.