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June.15 Cover - Torres
Written by Glen Sarvady   
ImageBlurred Woman:
TORRES Demonstrates the Not-So-Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance


Mackenzie Scott’s career arc doesn’t follow the typical trajectory of an indie rock breakthrough. It’s not every day you hear about an artist accelerating her graduation so she can hit the road as soon as her debut album drops. It’s even more unusual when the school in question is a Christian college and the artist has precious few live dates under her belt.

It’s probably best that these facts weren’t widely known at the time of TORRES’ early 2013 release – there could easily have been a rush to the “who does this woman think she is?” stance of the sort taken by the jaded New York theater critic in the film Birdman, or a tendency to pigeonhole Scott as a Danielson Famile-type secular curiosity. Instead her music was allowed to speak for itself – which it did very, very well. Sometimes operating from passion rather than experience can be the best strategy.

With Scott’s new sophomore album Sprinter, TORRES embarks on a somewhat more traditional – yet no less audacious – trip to the rodeo. The songwriting is clearly the product of the same fertile mind, but the radio-ready presentation of its most prominent songs is far more aggressive, and the collaborators A-list caliber. How many young artists travel to the UK to record with key players from monoliths like PJ Harvey and Portishead? “The first time I intentionally set out to make a sonically minimal record,” Scott explains by phone from her newly adopted Brooklyn home. “This time I had a clearer picture of what I wanted it to sound like going into the writing process,” thanks to her discovery of the joys of volume as the compositions from her debut album found new life and abandon onstage. 

Scott was raised in Macon, but her debut originated from Nashville while she was attending Belmont College. That locale, combined with the occasional twang in her voice (eradicated by the time of Sprinter) and the cowboy hat she donned in several early videos also courted typecasting. But what hits hardest from TORRES are the harrowing romantic travails – mostly delivered from the perspective of a doormat – that sound unsettlingly knowing coming from someone so young (“Go find someplace warm, I’ll still be here when winter’s over;” “I’m suffocating you, I know, it’s just the only way I know to love.”) While Scott won’t disavow an autobiographical component, she also invokes poetic license. “It’s me, but an amplified version of me, one facet that I’m having fun exploring and tampering with the levels.”

On Sprinter, however, Scott gives as good as she gets. “I hate you all the same,” she shrieks on “Strange Hellos,” and she snipes, “If you do not know the darkness/ Then you’re the one I fear the most” on “New Skin.” There’s one interesting exception, though – Scott spent a chunk of 2013 touring with Aly Spaltro (better known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper), who also released a precociously superb debut in an almost identical timeframe. While the two artists share many traits, Scott insists the Sprinter track “Ferris Wheel” was not inspired by the opening track of the same name on Lady Lamb’s first album. “I’ve actually had that song for quite some time – it was the only Sprinter song I wrote pre-TORRES,” she says.  And sure enough, on closer inspection its tale of unrequited love hews closer to the debut’s themes of victimization; “You borrowed my car a couple times/ You don’t like me – you just like my ride.”

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