"Torres" by Torres Review

Alternative Rock
3/5 Stars

For the craft of singer-songwriters and solo artists, 2013 has given us “Torres”, the debut album by Nashville-based, fuzzed out crooner Torres (or Mackenzie Scott as her friends know her). While the album possesses its fair share of flaws, it’s an incontestably captivating record at its core.

Right off the bat, something vexing about “Torres” is how it shuffles onto the stage with the plodding “Mother Earth, Father God”. In the song, Scott plucks out garden variety theism imagery (“O Mother Earth/O Father God. The demons wager on my fall”) for melodramatic, vague dilemmas of love. For example the particularly cringe-worthy line, “I knew beforehand of the kiss/You always warned me of the kiss/I have been betrayed by a kiss.”

Then something strange occurs. “Mother Earth, Father God” mercifully ends after four and a half minutes of trudging absolutely nowhere. In the next track, “Honey”, Scott ditches her slack-jawed orchestration in favor of fingerpicking a beautifully simplistic melody consisting of nothing but a Fender and her own voice. The histrionics are either gone or unnoticeable due to the sheer gut-wrenching passion with which Scott howls lines like, “Honey/while you were ashin’ in your coffee/I was thinkin’ ‘bout tellin’ you what you’ve done to me,” and the heartbreakingly nonchalant, “Everything hurts but it’s fine/Happens all the time.” It’s the kind of track that causes you to never get around to listening to the rest of the record. A fervent blaze of raw emotion, far and away it is the best track on the album.

This track leads to the second frustrating aspect of “Torres”: Nothing quite lives up to the time-stopping intensity of “Honey” and there’s still eight tracks left on the album. “Jealousy and I,” while in the same minimalist vein as “Honey,” trades in its ardent swell for a far more brooding air to disappointing results.  “November Baby,” while far from gripping, is a gorgeous, sobering plea for the return of a lost lover (“Your big sad eyes/Your crooked smile/Your gapped teeth/Your widow’s peak/Oh, my November baby.”)

The only other track that comes within the compass of “Honey’s” magnificence is the slow-motion eulogy and closing track “Waterfall,” a gathering storm of a song that employs the repetition found in “Mother Earth, Father God” yet yields far greater results in the process.  Scott’s vocals are bathed in a jittering, nervous energy that rests perfectly atop the song’s fragile sonic weight. When Scott utters, “Do you ever think/Maybe it’ll all be better in the morning?/From way up here it looks so calm/Do you ever make it halfway down and think/God, I never meant to jump at all?” it’s hard to do anything but nod in silent concurrence.  Maybe the intricacies of life can’t be summed up in a lyric as fatalistic as “Nowhere to go but down/Nothing to do but drown.” But when Scott signs it with a jarringly resolved passiveness, it’s still a striking encapsulation of the hopelessness we tend to feel in the wake of being hurt.

The good songs showcased on “Torres” are breathtaking, which makes it all the more devastating that there’s so few of them amongst the drudgery that dominates its runtime. When Scott is in control of her craft she masterfully spins together tales of isolation, abuse and neglect with a deft sense of pace and intensity that artists twice her age should envy. Unfortunately, these moments are so few and far between that each lazy exercise in sensationalist heartbreak which fills the space in between is all the more irritating. “Torres” is still worth a listen for those few tracks alone and for the simple reason that its shining moments demonstrate an artist with an enormous potential.

For fans of:  Waxahatchee, Nico and Sharon Van Etten