Album Review: Torres – “Silver Tongue”
Posted: by The Editor
It is a common trope among contemporary indie rock acts to eventually begin toying with synthesizers and drum machines. When done too abruptly, this can come across to fans as ham-fisted, or a means to remain relevant. TORRES’ Mackenzie Scott’s embrace of these aspects of electronic music, however, has been natural, and gradual.
Her 2013 self titled debut, for instance, is a straightforward indie rock record. TORRES was then followed up two years later by Sprinter, which contained plenty of infectious, shredding guitar parts, but also a notable addition of drum machines and synth parts on songs like “Cowboy Guilt” and “Son, You Are No Island”. Scott proceeds to follow this by releasing the artful, electronic Three Futures. Her latest, and first for Merge Records, Silver Tongue, then makes sense as the end point of this growth, building her sound into what can only be described as a mix of new wave and country rock.
While Scott has certainly always had a hand in her music’s production, it is notable that this is her first where she has done that work on her own. While she has been releasing albums under her TORRES moniker for nearly a decade, Silver Tongue feels like our first true introduction to the real person, and the power of Mackenzie Scott. While she previously had done much of her work singing from the point of view of characters, there is no artifice on Silver Tongue. Scott is singing personal, firsthand accounts about various people.
Across each track, Scott feels authoritative and protective. On the standout “Dressing America,” Scott addresses her partner, explaining “I tend to sleep with my boots on / should I need to gallop over dark water / to you on short notice.” Musically, the song starts simple and grounded, only to grow and soar with Scott’s vocals.
The idea of cowboys has crept into popular culture, and particularly music, in the past few years, and to a newcomer, TORRES might seem like another instance of this; watch the video for “Dressing America”, and see Scott in various locations walking in a cowboy hat and boots. This imagery, however, has been a part of Scott’s work for years, and “Dressing America” feels like the most complete iteration of it she has done yet. It would be a stretch to categorize the record as being country music, though the feelings that genre expresses are certainly on display here.
The power in Scott’s piercing vocals carries through, even on songs like the wistful “Two of Everything,” a song sung to the person her partner has been cheating with. Despite that premise, it is not a vicious or vengeful song; rather, it understands that each party has been hurt. This is not the only moment on the record that suggests heartbreak. The lovely “A Few Blue Flowers” evokes being led on by a lover and then left alone. It’s an eerie song, cloaked in twinkling synths and a booming echo of drums. Contrast this, then, with the song that succeeds it. “Gracious Day” is the first song in years that calls to mind Scott’s less intricate production. It’s a touching song, urging her lover to move in with her so she can sing her only love songs.
Artists creating things as intricate and polished as the work Scott does can often risk coming across as too serious, or less human, buried under their experimentation and performance. Scott has not done away with any of those intricacies, but has done so from a place of openness, letting the listener in, giving them a view at her true feelings. This is why Silver Tongue succeeds. By taking her process into her own hands, Mackenzie Scott has given us her best work yet.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
Eric Bennett // @seething_coast
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