Album Reviews

Torres – What An Enormous Room

(Merge) UK release date: 26 January 2024

Mackenzie Ruth Scott has been responsible for some extraordinary music over the last decade, and her latest swaggers with confidence

Torres - What An Enormous Room It’s been 11 years since Mackenzie Ruth Scott introduced herself to the wider world as Torres with her self-titled debut album. She’s always been particularly difficult to pigeonhole, which may explain why she remains on the fringes of superstardom, despite being responsible for, at times, some extraordinary music over the last decade.

Indeed, 2015’s Sprinter and her last album, 2021’s Thirstier stand as two of the best albums of the last 10 years, and there’s a confidence and swagger about What An Enormous Room which immediately places it alongside those two standouts. That confidence is embodied in opening track Happy Man’s Shoes which, even for such an eclectic artist as Torres, is like nothing she’s recorded before.

That opening track mixes a stridently funky bassline with some spooky electronica effects, and a deadpan vocal from Scott – lines like “the me of yesterday hadn’t a clue, today I’d be Baby Blue” and “my star’s just on the rise, babe”. It almost feels like a statement of intent and is the perfect relaunch of this phase of Torres’ career.

Scott recently married her partner, artist Jenna Gribbon, and the rush and ecstasy of love pulses through much of this album. Wake To Flowers has a euphoric kick to it – a song that pretty much rewrites the old cliche of “if you want a rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain” without it sounding hackneyed. “Deaths of pets and parents, you know they’re waiting in the wings” she sings, but the glow of love overrides all. “Is this my life? I’m surprised” runs one of the most touching lyrics.

Even when anxiety and unease bubble under the surface in Torres’ world, there’s still the feeling that love can conquer all. The self-explanatory I Got The Fear is an acoustic ballad about panic attacks and how “the dread doesn’t pay any rent money” but concludes that “as long as it doesn’t get ahold of my honey, I think I’ll be alright”. It’s the sort of song that makes for an oddly comforting ballad through a sleepless night.

Musically, as is usually the case Torres, she skips from genre to genre quite effortlessly. Collect is a big, enormous revenge song, which sees Scott angrily repeating “did I hit a nerve?” before proclaiming “I am the Angel of Death” while piano chords stab and guitars distort underneath her. It’s almost impossibly compelling to listen to.

Jerk Into Joy though is the polar opposite – the song from which the album takes its excellent title as Scott marvels at the enormous room and imagines “all the dancing I can do” before exploding into a big, bright hug of a song with some clattering percussion that feed the song’s energy. You’ll be wanting to find an enormous room to dance along to by the end of the track.

The quieter, darker moments of What An Enormous Room, such as Ugly Mystery, work equally well, and songs like Forever Home proves that Scott hasn’t lost her touch at writing a big anthemic rock song – a track that can boast a radio-friendly catchy chorus together with memorable lyrics about a girl who “claims she’s only short because of caffeine”.

Perhaps the most apt, if musically very different, comparison to Torres is Mitski, another unclassifiable artist who quite happily does things on her own terms and reaps the rewards. Scott hasn’t quite broken out of cult stardom like Mitski has, but there’s no reason to think What An Enormous Room couldn’t be the album that introduces her to a whole new audience.

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More on Torres
Torres – What An Enormous Room
Torres – Thirstier
Torres – Silver Tongue
Torres @ Scala, London
Torres – Sprinter