Mackenzie Scott has a problem. Actually, she has several problems, and they’re not related to her efforts to rediscover the form which commanded that multi-million pound transfer fee just a few years ago. No, her problems are mostly ones of familiarity. Confessional singer-songwriters aren’t exactly thin on the ground, so Torres comes ready burdened with both a bunch of easy comparators and an increased need to be distinctive .
But the fact is, her self-titled, self-released debut does. It’s simple, unfussy stuff and, particularly across the first half, mostly sticks to stark minimalism. There’s little in the way of studio gimmickry or even competing instrumentation, choosing instead to leave Torres alone with her guitar and only an occasional, distant, apologetic sounding drum for company. It means she has nowhere to hide, should the basics not be right.
Fortunately, they are. Scott’s voice is distinctive and emotive. Skulking in dark corners when the occasion demands and bursting into wounded, raging life when provoked. She has also got a neat line in evocative poetic imagery, be it ‘November Baby”s plaintive “his skin hangs on me like a lampshade”, ‘Don’t Run Away”s tacitly defiant declaration that “I don’t feel the need today / for my usual masquerade” or ‘Waterfall”s thoughtful “do you ever make it half way down and think God, I never meant to jump at all”.
‘Chains’ is barely there, perfectly supporting Scott’s most threatening vocal, and the slacker-rock indebted ‘When Winter’s Over’ - the song that most makes Torres sound most like a band than a solo venture - are both excellent, but ‘Honey’ is the pick. An unobtrusive beat, a prickly and distorted riff and a tale that seems to be being spun at the beginning of the end of the relationship. It has blown yet, Lava isn’t quite flowing, there’s still the semblance of politeness, but one more thoughtless gesture and things are going properly Vesuvius.
With a world-weariness which belies her age, but delivered with an authenticity which stops that from ever being a problem, ‘Torres’ is a promising, impassioned debut. There’s also the beguiling hint that its maker could go on to do even greater things.