On "To Be Woke," the finale of T0W3RS' second LP, TL;DR, Derek Torres retreats to old tricks. His voice emerges from a bower's nest of glowing drones and scrambled electronics, bird noises and guitar strums to deliver ponderous questions. As the beat builds behind Torres' coo, the inspiration becomes obvious: Animal Collective, circa 2005. It's as though the one-man band is channeling a standby playlist.
But Torres has been here before, so much so that T0W3RS' former output could seem like mere mimicry. To Torres' great credit, this incident emerges as an exception, an afterthought. Instead, throughout much of TL;DR, he slingshots through other influences to stake an identity of his own. These 10 songs are the closest he's ever been to sounding bigger than a moment, broader than pastiche. "Silk Hope" conjures a complicated Talking Heads bounce, while "M.P.D.B." wrangles The Arcade Fire's dramatic thrum. "Let Me In," a cover of Carrboro's The Human Eyes, is consummate cool verve.
Torres' change is evident from the jump with "Cups," an opener that starts low and slow but soon leaps for a series of exclamation marks. "You've got the things that I need," Torres howls, his falsetto lifted by a tide of sudden gusto. After the breakup of T0W3RS' first version and Torres' subsequent solo restructuring, he seems to have emerged with more to say by himself than he could ever manage when surrounded by equals.
Label: Phuzz Records