TORRES : What an enormous room

Torres what an enormous room review

Mackenzie Scott is a songwriter at a somewhat strange place in her artistic life. Now over a decade into her recording career as TORRES, Scott has gone through the familiar cycles of hype, reinvention, and critical acclaim. In that time, she has progressed from folky balladeer to bombastic, gothic pop dynamo, continually elevating the stakes and becoming an incredibly reliable force along the way. Her sixth album, What an enormous room does little to change that fact. It is reliable TORRES through and through—big, brash, and sometimes beautiful—but there is, more than on any of her recent records, a hint of the kind of diminishing returns that can come when someone settles into their thing perhaps a little too snugly. 

“Enormous” is, I think, a good place to start when discussing this record. Everything about TORRES’ recent run of albums—beginning back in 2020 with Silver Tongue—has been about upping the ante, and this record is no exception. Even the cover, which finds Scott the sole figure among a vast, empty warehouse, seems to be a comment not on any sort of insignificance, but on her innate ability to fill any space she enters. Compare the with her last record, Thirstier, and its cover donning a painting of her naked body covered only by her guitar, and you get an idea of some of the key differences here. Thirstier may be audacious but there is a hint of vulnerability in that brazen confidence. Here, she doesn’t have time for such pin-point focus, the room must be filled and she is the one to fill it. “It’s not like it’s your demise, babe. My star’s just on the rise, babe,” goes the record’s opening song, “Happy man’s shoes”. It’s a cheeky statement, delivered in Scott’s typically sardonic deadpan, but it’s an appropriately cocky introduction to the album that follows. 

That said, there are a few instances when Scott lets that well-worn guard down just a bit, sprinkling a few questions among her many answers, and they are often the best. “I got the fear” is one of the few moments Scott’s guitar comes to the top of the mix, framing a song where fear, panic and “winter blues” choke her usually soaring voice. Similarly, the droning, slow-walk of “Ugly mystery,” which covers the pathetic, subtle toxicity of a relationship long past its expiration date. These moments of specificity are ultimately short lived though and, largely, seem to be of less concern to what Scott is trying to get at here. The de facto title track, “Jerk into joy” might come during the album’s latter half but goes a long to explaining the thesis of this record. “What an enormous room/ Look at all the dancing I can do,” repeats Scott throughout this slow-burn of a single, framing this “jerk into joy” as a direct response to anything as overwhelming as the “fear” and “mystery” conjured in those earlier tracks. 

The real issue with What an enormous room though, does not necessarily lie in this instinct to distract or avoid but in the unevenness with which she achieves this goal. There are simply fewer moments that hit as hard as the best of Thirstier or Silver Tongue and as the bombast of her hooks lose their shine, there’s very little for us to hold tightly to in their stead. 

Label: Merge

Year: 2024

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