Review Summary: Heaviest pop album of 2010.
Since Torche's beginnings on their self titled 2005 release, the band's style has remained a somewhat difficult one to pin down. While tracks like Charge of the Brown Recluse, Tarpit Carnivore, and the title track from 2008's Meanderthal, all including the band's now infamous use of the "bomb string" (look it up if you're a bit lost), lend themselves to a sort of sludge metal/stoner rock hybrid, more upbeat tracks like Healer, Accross the Shields, and In Return have earned the band their slightly sarcastic "stoner pop" label. This dichotomy within the band's sound has provided a refreshing balance within their past three releases, but the formula has been tweaked ever so slightly for this year's Songs for Singles.
The album is really composed of two separate entities, the first being tracks one through six, and the second being tracks seven and eight, with both groups taking up about the same amount of play time. The first six tracks take the riff heavy, detuned catchiness of Meanderthal, and up the catchiness factor by about 20. Album opener U.F.O features one of the more infectious guitar leads I've heard all year, follow up track Lay Low is 52 seconds of non stop, thick as molasses riffing broken up about midway through by an incredibly low thud, and album highlight Arrowhead manages to pound away in fury without ever loosing it's fun factor. Still, as impressively well put together as the songs are musically, everything would more than likely fall apart without Steve Brooks's voice to tie it all together. From the languid crooning in U.F.O. that floats through the track in just the right part of the mix, to the more urgent shouts of Lay Low and the "woah-oh-oh"s of Hideaway, the vocals really elevate the tracks to a higher level. After six songs of thunderous riffing and pounding drums, the album shifts tempos drastically into the four and a half minute Face the Wall, featuring rolling drumbeats, and thick, reverb laden guitars, with the sound thinning out a little bit for the laid back, six minute Out Again. In it's own right, Out Again is a pretty great song, but it is
just a little bit hard to digest coming right after the first six tracks, even with the buffer of Face the Wall in between.
Basically, the bulk of the material contained within Songs for Singles sounds just like the title implies it would; brief, streamlined, and intensely catchy, yet it still retains a good bit of the pounding, detuned madness that Torche has come to be known for. You can call it an EP, LP, micro-album, maxi-single, stop-gap, or whatever else you can think of, but the fact remains that Songs for Singles is, and probably will remain the best "heavy pop" album of 2010.