JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor
Every so often I wake up in a panic, my brow soaked in sweat, and wonder whether I’m wasting my life. I mean, I could be. Writers are prone to making big mistakes, huge mistakes. How else would we ever gather the material we need to create?
This is how I feel as I listen to Torres’ (aka Mackenzie Scott) new self-titled album. She’s fresh out of college, almost 22 (younger than me) and was featured on Pitchfork upon self-releasing her first single “Honey.”
She croons the sad ballad about a wife who watches her husband drinking his morning coffee, unable to tell him how he’s wasted her life, ruined any chance she had to be happy.
The wife can only wonder: “What ghost crawled inside my guitar?” The song is a sad portrait of marriage, one where one person is obviously settling and the other is oblivious to his partner’s pain. The heartbreaking ending, one that drags you down to tears if you’ve ever been in a relationship you know will only bring you more and more disappointment, has the wife hanging on to false hope: “Honey/ Pretending like it never happened/Come over here and let me/Put you back together/Maybe some other time then/I’ll come back again.”
Have you ever loved someone who’s no good to you but you still feel like you can fix him/her?
Scott recorded her album in a basement in her hometown of Nashville, a city that has a long musical history rooted in folk, country, and blues characterized by honest songwriting and catchy hooks. Nashville has become the center for indie singer-songwriters looking for a more traditional kind of sound to counteract the more electronically-charged sound of the dancey east coast.
Sharon Van Etten, a New Jersey native and writer of “sad prairie songs,” had a brief stint in Nashville.
Jack White (once one-half of The White Stripes), who has recently launched his solo career as a singer-songwriter, established his record company, Third Man Records, in Nashville, signing talent such as Seasick Steve and The Black Belles.
It goes without saying then that Scott faces a huge challenge growing up a singer-songwriter in Nashville. But she’s done pretty well for herself. Her family saved up money collectively to buy Scott the Gibson electric guitar featured in most of the tracks. She just moved in to her own apartment and is getting national recognition for her music. Scott posted on her Twitter the other day that she had just finished recording a Daytrotter session, a live-recording series that has promoted countless indie acts.
Let’s face it: she’s living my life and your life and lots of other struggling young artists’ lives.
Perhaps we all need to be more charming (like this review). One of the most genuisly charming things about her is how little of her is on the Internet. I don’t know if this is on purpose, but it makes her even more likable because she’s not attacking our faces with Spotify and YouTube ads. She has a little website where she posts lyrics and tour dates.
There are three or four videos of her performing or promoting the album. She has a very humble Facebook page where she spends most of her time thanking fans (she’s garnering a lot of those lately) and sites that review her album (mostly positive so far). Scott has a Tumblr page as well. Most of her page is full of pictures of Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) whom she adores and looks up to. Scott also posts little vignettes she’s written since the conception of her album.
Before you ask, Yes, I’m in love with this woman and I’m straight creepin’.
But I’ve barely talked about the actual tracks.
The first half of the album (or the first four tracks, anyways) consists of very naked confessional songs about love, jealousy, alienation, and loss put together by silky melodies fingerpicked on her Gibson. The writing is brilliantly skeletal: “‘Cause Jealousy and I/ We’re two of a kind/And she’s all mine/I’ll never let her go” in “Jealousy and I” and “This skin hangs on me like a lampshade” in “November Baby.”
The second half of the album is characterized by more traditional writing.
“When Winter’s Over” is a straightforward rock song: “Go find someplace warm I’ll still be here when/Winter’s over.
“Chains” is the album’s most minimalist song, consisting of a bass beat and a few guitar lines, which call to mind artists such as Holly Miranda and the xx.
“Moon & Back” and “Don’t Run Away, Emilie” are songs about loss. They are the least exceptional songs on the album. A bit slow-paced, but very pretty.
The final two tracks, “Come to Terms” and “Waterfall” did it for me. I mean, they broke my heart.
“Come To Terms” is the most folky song on the album and includes wise lyrics such as “‘Cause people always change/But ain’t always changing for the better/And just because the two of us/Will both grow old in time/Don’t mean we should grow old together.”
How much better can anyone put it?
“Waterfall” brings to mind an outro composed by The Antlers. The looping tremolo guitar accompanies a song about suicide that wraps up the album in uncertainty. A woman considers jumping down a waterfall to her death and we’re left to wonder whether she did or not. Scott imagines what it would be like falling to your doom: “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.”
A metaphor if I ever did see one.
“Torres” is out now on iTunes. Scott will make her Brooklyn debut on Feb. 24.