TORRES’ new album Silver Tongue is one which defies expectations of an artist who has oscillated between angsty and grungy indie rocker and boundary-pushing pop artist throughout the 2010s. The first line of Silver Tongue embodies the reinvention of their sound; “Are you planning to love me through the bars of a golden cage? / Don’t make yourself sick with the wanting, skittish thing”. This brief snippet serves as the embodiment of a record which offers a raw, intimate and personal insight into the internality of Mackenzie Scott. Perhaps best enjoyed within the privacy of a pair of big, bassy headphones instead of speakers.
Following a self-resurrection triggered by a period in which Scott underwent a brutal dumping from her record label 4AD and suffered through a complicated relationship, her latest project deals unrelentingly and unambiguously with ideas of love, loss, obsession and instability.
Sonically, the album is expansive, powerful and at times, epic. From the outset the album instantly implicates it’s listener into Scott’s piercingly beautiful contralto. ‘Last Forest’ most clearly demonstrates her pure and innocent yet tortured vocals, undercut by gripping bursts of powerfully layered harmonies “I’ve run to you, it’s come to me / Been choosing you for centuries”. The subsequent track, ‘Dressing America’, is contrastingly pretty, with crooning and plaintive guitars complimented by beautifully synthetic background keyboard trills. In spite of this it just might be possible that Scott’s album teeters on the repetitive; the tight and consistent drum beats that drive each song forward persist throughout meaning the initial sound perhaps loses some of its poignance.
The initially awe-inspiring effect, however, is maintained by the chillingly personal fragility demonstrated by the lyrics. You go into the album expecting an intimate, visceral experience, and that is certainly what you get. As the album progresses the listener becomes integrated and complicit in the incredibly tangible emotional turmoil of the artist, revealing an unflinching and unfiltered insight into subjective instability of TORRES. This conflict is epitomised by her apparent acceptance that “There’s no such thing as good, good grief,” on ‘Good Grief’ which is then followed by the melancholy “I don’t want you going home anymore / I want you coming home,” on the gorgeous acoustic track ‘Gracious Day,’ in which Scott refuses to admit defeat to a loveless relationship.
By creating a grand and embracing sound which couples with a bleakly honest subject-matter, TORRES achieves the rare feat of captivating her listener track by track, from start to finish. Despite being at points repetitive, somehow this album’s sound demands attention, both sensorially and emotionally. The result is an impassioned and poignant sucker punch.
Image: Pinelopi Gerasimou via Wikimedia Commons