Year Released: 2013
Of all the albums I’ve listened to in 2013, only one has clung to my consciousness and literally haunted my dreams. The album, Torres, by Torres, the musical pseudonym of Mackenzie Scott, is emotionally and audibly raw to the point where it is sometimes painful to hear, and yet, the album reaches such subtle and delicate heights that the heartache it conveys feels somehow beautiful, true and strangely invigorating.
Don’t let the opening track, “Mother Earth, Father God”, fool you. Torres is not trying to be Tori Amos or Sharon Van Etten or Cat Power or St. Vincent. Yes, all of those voices can be heard somewhere in this album, but as each track unfolds, it becomes clear that Torres has her own unique and powerful style, both musically and lyrically. Where the first track is almost symphonic in its scale, the songs that follow grow both more personal and more emotive.
Track number two, “Honey” was the first to really grab me. Opening with simple fingering of Scott’s Gibson electric guitar, the song sounds delicate and almost sweet at first, but quickly moves into an almost bellowing cry. The main repeated line, “Honey, While you were ashing in your coffee/ I was thinking ‘bout telling you, What you’ve done to me/ Oh Honey, pretending like it never happened/ come over here and let me/ put you back together,” grows louder and more dissonant with each repetition.
This theme of melancholy longing and emotional co-dependence is both the set-up and the punchline to this album. As Torres, Mackenzie Scott seems well aware of the dangerous line her songs walk between girlish infatuations and more serious adult dysfunction. “To the Moon and Back,” about a letter written by a mother to the baby she gave up for adoption, demonstrates a kind of desperate compassion for a woman who drew “the shortest straw” in life and “Come to Terms” makes the wise observation that, “Just because the two of us/ Will both grow old in time/ Don’t mean we should grow old together.” Although Scott herself is only 22 years old as this album is released, she has flashes of maturity in her writing that sound as though they come from a lifetime of heartbreak and recovery.
As for the music itself, Scott’s use of the electric guitar is somewhat elementary, but incredibly effective. In an interview on The Creative Routine, she is asked why she chose an electric guitar over an acoustic one. Her response is finally, “It screams in my hands” and I think that description couldn’t be more accurate. While Scott’s voice has an incredible ability to be sweet and beautiful at one moment and then strangled and raw the next, the guitar and other instruments on the album serve to add a grungy, unfiltered layer that provides an immediate subtext to the lyrics themselves.
For an additional conversation with Torres, check out the Dead Journalist interview from January 2013. Dead Journalist asks her what she was listening to in 2003 (when Mackenzie Scott was 12 years old) and her answer is pretty priceless. There’s more in that interview worth reading, so check it out.
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