TORRES, “Silver Tongue”

TORRES
Silver Tongue
Merge
7/10

It’s best to start at the end with any good breakup record. The lyrics for Silver Tongue’s final, title-track heartbreaker also serve as a thesis for TORRES’ entire career thus far. It’s a track that cracks you open like a geode and leaves only shimmering dust behind. “Watch what you sing / Whoever’s listening will believe / When you serve it up on that silver tongue,” sings Mackenzie Scott.

Silver tongue or not, the politics of the heart are still a fruitful influence for the Brooklyn singer-songwriter over nine new songs. Scott’s fourth album as TORRES sees her shape-shifting again with a sense of purpose and poise. The indie-rock artist pivoted from 4AD to Merge Records for Silver Tongue and takes on all production duties. She’s already constructed the sound she wants to dwell within.

The record sinks into luxuriant oblivion throughout. Scott examined society’s worn-out gender roles a bit on the electro-infused Three Futures; that confident record lyrically explored the contours of modern male/female sensuality as well. This album dials back the explicitly sexual, but keeps the focus on relationships in states of distress and rapture. “Good Scare” kicks things off with an arena rock jostle, full of chest-thumping ’80s drums and a gauzy atmosphere. Scott sings like a gale is behind her, continuing to deliver indie cool while embracing her Southern upbringing: “You make me want to write the country song folks here in New York get a kick out of / I’d sing about knockin’ you up under Tennessee stars / in the bed of my red Chevrolet pickup.”

Scott has always been a sharp and economical lyricist with a variety of personas at her disposal. Folk-rock and New Wave genre atoms smash together on “Dressing America,” and Scott’s words (as always) linger even as she stretches her skills as a producer: “I tend to sleep with my boots on should I need to gallop over dark water,” she sings. The lengthened phrasing of the line “to you on short notice” later in the track is a real pinch of the heart. Scott is still a master at that.

At this juncture, the album is playing with the listener’s emotions and genre like a predator batting around its prey and holding back tears at the same time. “Records of Your Tenderness” starts as a traditional folky hymnal that points back to Scott’s spiritual background in the Baptist church before diving into a morass of synthesizers and digital percussion.

Silver Tongue’s finest moments will have you considering Scott’s artistic namesake. “Torres” is a customary surname often given to someone who has lived in or near a tower, from the Latin “turris.” The loneliness of a lost relationship can echo, and a voice can help fill that void, no matter how claustrophobic or isolating your environment. This is an album that doesn’t force its artistic value outwards. Instead, it welcomes you into the tower and offers a novel view of familiar surroundings from above.

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