Band: Torres
Album: Torres
Best song: “Honey” was the single and the breakout hit.
Worst song: “November Baby” is a very good song, but the weakest on a very strong album.

The machinations of a record’s recording aren’t all that important, in the grand scheme of music. Does it matter if a record was recorded at 3 am only by one artist with nothing but his/her guitar? Or just a band, no post-production. All in one take? All in a few days?

I don’t know that it matters, ultimately, that Mackenzie Scott’s first record was recorded by with minimal production in some Nashville studio or wherever. But, it mesmerizes me that a person so young can so perfectly hit on some of the dynamics of relationships like Scott does. All of 22, Scott’s Torres has the rawness of Either/Or and the aesthetics of Dear Sir. I am, of course, not the first to make the comparison, but it remains apt. 

Nevertheless, 2013’s Torres is a revelation in things we’ve already heard, yet somehow seems unique. “When Winter’s Over” has the Nashvillian notion of broken hearts and drinking (“More than the whiskey on our lips I just needed thicker skin”) coupled with a perfectly-drawn lead guitar line straight out of a Seam or Guided by Voices record, all couched in the seasonal life-death-rebirth metaphor that continues to provide for existential dread (best use, of course, remains Pain is Beauty).

“Moon & Back” finds Scott with her the most Chan Marshall-ish guitar lines of all the songs on the record,, powered over another late 1990s/early 2000s dynamic of starts and stops. Crooning confidently, Scott’s voice sounds both strong and vulnerable as she rhythmically runs lines like “Please don’t look at this like a hit and run/In a breath I felt you leaving like the setting sun.”

Scott’s lyricism is, like the best lyrics, conversational while still being memorably poetic. I imagine this is — in combination with its perfectly executed arrangement — why “Honey” is the song that broke out (in the way that a record that few people heard can break out). The refrain recreates the broken relationship in moments of both excitement and mundanity:

While you were ashing in your coffee
I was thinking ‘bout telling you
What you’ve done to me

There’s a certain quality of analogy to Smog’s “Your New Friend,” though Scott’s version is more desperate, more open-ended and, different. “Honey” builds and builds to arpeggio of distorted chords — it begins with muted plucking — and thundering low drums as Scott sings through a presumably gritted mouth about said relationship gone wrong. But, unlike the music of so many pop records, there is no resolution to the discord, as she matter-of-factly sings “Maybe some other time then I’ll come back again.”

Scott’s ability to switch between huge dynamism and lovely small songs shows a great songwriter at work. For a song like “Honey” that apes — in the best possible way — the Velvets’ “Heroin,” Torres’ “Jealousy and I” is a small song that only changes volumes in Scott’s delivery. But, the song’s lyric almost personifies the emotion of jealousy in the chorus (“Jealousy gets me sometimes, But I don’t mind, no I don’t mind”). “Don’t Run Away, Emilie” is the most conventional in its ups and downs, with lovely strings and a whisper-sweet vocal from Scott of .

Lest I forget the rockingest song from the record: “Mother Earth, Father God.” The record starts off with the thumping, gorgeous power-chorder. SCott’s voice crackles and soars as she references old time religion, citing being betrayed by “a kiss,” the “fall” and “the greatest trick.”

It’s a great opener on an album full of amazing songs. Torres is the other best album of 2013.

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