Singer-songwriter Adam Torres began his career a decade ago, releasing his first record Nostra Nova while still in school, achieving a kind of underground acclaim. Now signed to Fat Possum, Torres gives us his next achievement in stirring songwriting with Pearls to Swine.
The voice of Torres undoubtedly is the focal point of the music, his startling tenor soaring above the lush folk soundscapes. The strongest songs are when he remains in his sweet spot, songs like “High Lonesome” and “Mountain River” where he throws in flutters of falsetto, rather than relying on it too heavily like on opener “Juniper Arms”. Times when the violin and other backing instrumentals mirror his falsetto are also very cool touches, like on “Some Beast Will Find You By Name”. Again, a nod to the strength of his voice as a traditional instrument, this album achieves something that has been lacking in modern popular music.
The music of the album reflects its environment – recorded in Austin, the swells reflect the traditional folk and country of the south, but with modern touches, like Torres’ unusually prominent vocals. Thor Harris of Swans was also involved in the record, a man who recently released his own record Thor & Friends, which demonstrates his proficiency in rhythms and textures, which make strong appearances on Pearls to Swine. The songs set a great neo-Western tone upon which Torres spins his stories.
Torres himself has come a long way in his career – beginning as a local sensation releasing his debut while in college – the album follows the same theme of adventure and personal perseverance. As he notes, the record “maps Adam’s complicated history as a songwriter and musician: it’s the sound of someone who discovered the value in his own devotion to music, and how writing and songs are extensions of his own journey.
But while the music itself is lush, I find Adam Torres’ voice to be increasingly distracting as the record goes on. There are times when he blends with the track beautiful, his voice as an instrument in its own right, but others where the falsetto just doesn’t fit. This falsetto seems to be the source of his critical acclaim, but too much of a reliance on that makes the lyrics unintelligible, renders his journey and his theme undetermined. While the songwriting is interesting, it doesn’t hold up with some of the other country and folk achievements in songwriting, of which there has been a plethora as of late (Sturgill Simpson, Wilco). Regardless, the instrumental aspects of Pearls to Swine prove strongest, and the voice that should be the positive focus of the record becomes a cherry on top most of the time, but also could be a deal breaker for many casual listeners.
Singer/Songwriter | Fat Possum