Torres Is a Towering Presence on 'What an Enormous Room'

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 26, 2024


I’ve started thinking about rooms — and what it means to have a room of one's own — differently since I moved to Toronto. The reasons for that are obvious to anyone else who pays rent in this city, I'm sure. It's quite the opposite as the titular room on Torres's new album, What an Enormous Room (unless we’re interpreting this sarcastically, which admittedly kind of works): a converted dining room with no closet, in the half of a duplex that I share with four other people. All of this is to say that I’ve finally invested in earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones.

Mackenzie Scott’s sixth full-length album revels in the sonic space it can occupy. It’s about that more than any actual room; how big she can make it all sound. That’s what I think about when she repeats the title — remarking, “Look at all the dancing I can do” — on “Jerk into joy,” which oscillates between a soaring, sun-kissed chorus and near spoken-word rhythmics. It’s one of the few tracks where Torres lets her deftly wielded austerity down a bit. It doesn't sacrifice her hard-won conviction at all. In fact, this softening feels crucial.

It's likewise felt, albeit in an incredibly poised manner, on "Ugly mystery," probably the most instrumentally sparse on the album. Despite that, it still holds its own, letting its fuzzed-out guitars meander on held notes until fading into the oblivion of phosphorescent synths that have moments of both dreamy beauty and the askew colour I feel is integral to what Torres does. 

This rejection (of prettiness, of palatability) is part of her mission statement, although moments from her catalogue where she allows herself to abandon it ever so slightly — "Don't Go Putting Wishes in My Head" from 2021's Thirstier — feel like the true window into the boundlessness of her artistry.

The thunderously serrated lead single “Collect” is what brings me back into my room in this city. Into the room, into the rage. “Is that what you deserve?” Wondering if you would thrive living alone but knowing you’ll probably never be able to afford it? “Is that would you deserve?" Your boyfriend wanting you to move in with him but worrying about where you’d go if you ever broke up?

I’d love to believe Torres’s barbed affirmation — “Justice is coming / Know it and relax” — but, as she rightfully pointed out on the preceding track (“Ugly mystery”), “Hope is so violent.” 

It feels like the Wild West sometimes, clouds of dust blocking any clear vision of what my own future, even in a few years, could look like here. The only thing I’m really sure of is all the dancing I can do.

(Merge Records)

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