Release Date: May 5, 2015
Record label: PTKF
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
On Sprinter, you can hear singer/songwriter Mackenzie Scott breathe. Literally, at times. “The Exchange,” the last and lengthiest cut on the phenomenal sophomore release from Scott, whose recording moniker is Torres, is a study in aural intimacy. Scott’s refrain is a taut, tortured plea: “Mother, father / I’m underwater.” Her voice trembles and cracks the way voices sometimes do when they are conceding something shameful.
The opening of a Torres song often sounds like a distant thunderstorm in the making, gathering sonic particles into a taut force field and suddenly unleashing the whole mass in shocking, explosive bolts. Tunnels of reverb, claustrophobic ostinatos, and Mackenzie Scott’s menacing alto swirl together as pressure builds and emotions like fear, confusion, despair, and tentative flashes of hope incubate inside these charged sonic environments. The foreboding weather systems that Scott summons in her songs give dimension and extension to the topics she explores: her Baptist upbringing, her ongoing spiritual negotiation with those roots, her adoption, the weight of white guilt, the bullshittiness of social decorum—and the list goes on.
“Strange Hellos”, the lead song on Torres’ sophomore album, Sprinter, is bookended by two distinct lyrical wonders. The first is the album’s opening, where the Georgia native, former Nashville resident, and current Brooklyn artist gives her own awkward greeting: “Heather, I’m sorry that your mother/ Diseased in the brain/ Cannot recall your name/ Heather, I dreamt that I forgave/ But that only comes in waves/I hate you all the same. ” It’s abrupt and dark, and alongside the later lyric “strange hellos are not my bag,” it can even be taken with an embedded sense of humor.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Sometimes we reach moments in life when we are able to objectively look at ourselves and what drives us. Our automatic responses to life's circumstances and core beliefs fueling our thought processes become lucid. Torres' second record is about this self-insight and what she chooses to do with that awareness.
Faced with the task of following up her excellent 2013 self-titled debut LP, Mackenzie Scott (who records under the name Torres) decamped from Brooklyn to Bridport, Dorset. One could not wish for a more pacific (atlantic?) recording location, but the resulting album, Sprinter, is anything but laid back. Instead, it’s an intense, emotionally bruising work whose nine tracks touch upon abandonment, religion, depression and abuse.
From the grungy guitars of Strange Hellos to the bouncy, electronic brilliance of Cowboy Guilt, Mackenzie Scott’s second album under her moniker Torres is an astonishing, unpredictable record. The climax of final track The Exchange, with its unsettling refrain “Mother, Father, I’m under water”, sung hauntingly quietly, summarises the melancholy of several tracks (“I’ve got the sadness too,” she sings on Ferris Wheel). The 24-year-old Nashville songwriter relays this sadness beautifully, without veering into the confessionalism of some of her contemporaries.
The difficult second album: time constraints, extra pressure, greater scrutiny. For Mackenzie Scott, or Torres, read: added focus, powerful execution, sharper writing. ‘Sprinter’ is not one to be filed alongside the missteps. ‘Strange Hellos’, the opener and lead single, is not a red herring, but it promises a directness, a level of drive and physicality, that Scott is actually quite happy to do without for long stretches.
First Love. Lovetune for Vacuum. Past Life Martyred Saints. Torres. These have been some of the albums that meant the most to me over the past decade, with or without the qualifier that they also happen to be debuts by female solo artists of prodigious talent. Each seemed to be an artist for whom ….
Questioning what you once held fundamentally true is exhausting, but in every possible way, Brooklyn-via-Nashville singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott's intense, spiritual sophomore album as Torres suggests that this is work worth doing. Her 2013 self-titled debut felt inherently raw in its stripped-down folk-rock, a sound akin to that of her future collaborator Sharon Van Etten. On Sprinter, however, Scott shrouds her voice with feedback and heavier rock instrumentation, created alongside PJ Harvey producer and percussionist Rob Ellis.
McKenzie Scott is running from her past, although she’s not hiding from it, either. The 24 year old Nashville singer-songwriter has been forced to reach a certain autonomy in her musical career just as she’s experiencing changes of her own, changes that will remain unknowable for the foreseeable future. It must be a challenge to try to make sense of life’s growing pains when you’re right in the midst of them, when it’s perfectly acceptable to make rash decisions and allow yourself the license to royally screw up without even knowing about it.
There seems to be more emphasis on musical atmosphere-building than on your debut – and of course you have figures like Adrian Utley, Robert Ellis and Ian Olliver on board. How did you envisage it sounding? Did you succeed?I got exactly what I wanted out of those handsome Brits! Seriously. I kept telling Rob (when we were talking pre-production) that I wanted the record to have a distinct (albeit nebulous when I tried to articulate my vision to him) atmosphere, and he kept assuring me that the friends he’d asked to play on the record were right for the job.
On the cover of Torres' (a. k. a.
After her simmering and intimate self-titled debut earned Torres comparisons to PJ Harvey, Mackenzie Scott joined forces with a couple of Harvey's crew for her ambitious sophomore album, Sprinter. Co-produced by Scott and longtime PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis and recorded in Dorset, England, the record also has contributions from the powerful English singer/songwriter's occasional bassist Ian Olliver and guitarist/producer Adrian Utley of Portishead. However raw the lyrics and vocals may have been on Torres' debut, she kicks them up two notches on Sprinter, with grittier electric guitar accompaniment and rockier arrangements to boot.
Singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott (a.k.a. Torres) detangles years of spiritual unrest on her stirring second album. She recorded the set in an old children's nursery in rural England with co-producer Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey) and Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, who help give her steely reflections a ghostly vibe. The scalding grunge fury of "Strange Hellos" is tempered into the smoldering tones of "New Skin," a gentle meditation on baptism.
As opening statements go, it certainly leaves an impression: “Heather I’m sorry that your mother / Diseased in the brain / Cannot recall your name,” is how 24-year-old Mackenzie Scott, AKA Torres, chooses to begin her second album. Such lyrical jolts are frequent, as Scott takes inspiration from her past – in particular, her Baptist upbringing and subsequent rejection of it – for an album that thrives on going to intensely personal places. The title track, for instance, deals with a pastor who “Lost his position / Went down for pornography”.
The 2013 self-titled debut from Mackenzie Scott, the Georgia-born singer-songwriter who records with a backing band as Torres, was a collection of narrative rock songs that performed and exorcised personal trauma. On Torres, Scott forced herself to inhabit some low human moments — some of them possibly autobiographical and others obviously imagined — to wring measures of redemption and beauty from them. She risked a great deal by hanging the effect of her songwriting on her own performance of vulnerability and suffering.
Mackenzie Scott, the songwriter who records as Torres, operates in a primal realm where memories, scars, traumas and new sensations are all still raw. “Sprinter,” her second album, confronts relationships past and present, in songs that sound bravely open, even if it’s not immediately clear what’s on her mind. Her music is blunt, mercurial rock; it can smolder while she considers exactly where she stands, and it can roar into feedback-edged howls when her rage or despair boil over.