Words – Jasmine Stein

One month after a virtually unknown 22 year old singer-songwriter from Nashville was named best new music on Pitchfork, Mackenzie Scott of Torres played to a crowded room waiting to here “Honey”, Feb 22nd at Cake Shop in Manhattan.

In a cowboy hat with her dark brown hair covering over her face, Mackenzie commands the room with equal parts veracity and brute. After the first song Mackenzie looks up, smiles and tells the crowd that this is her first show in New York as she clasps her hands together, bowing and looking around, soaking in the moment.

Mackenzie doesn’t just sing, she bellows. Scott’s eyes are fiercely shut as if she is re-living each moment painting a vivid picture for us to follow as she invites us into her world. Her lyrics are smart and devastatingly poignant, but it’s not just the lines, it’s her delivery, and how each word bursts out of her like a bullet so sharp and unexpected, that I’m not sure if even she knows exactly what is about to come out. “I am starving for the truth, so feed me something real, why I’ve got youth left in my vein”.

Torres isn’t afraid to go dark. In fact, I think Scott’s dramatics are indicative of her buoyancy. She seems like the kind of person that feels everything, and instead of running from that emotion, she submerges herself in it and the truth that surfaces is infectious.

That emotion is also what drives her critics away. When I was having a conversation about Torres with friends, my older brother immediately casted her off as typical “Girl Rock”. Still, amidst the female angst, Torres taps into a rhythm that beats with a freshness that is uniquely her own. All of her songs pulse like mantras, as she repeats the same lyrics over and over again, each time with more feeling and urgency, tiptoeing between the lines of sanity, pleading with herself for clarity.

The record is missing a momentous crash, with so much pent up emotion it lingers in the center, stirring, and never quite takes off. But on stage Mackenzie delivers that release and doesn’t hold back.  There were moments when Mackenzie would get lost in the music, turning her back to the crowd and towards her band, stomping her feet into the ground like a vapid, raging bull. On Chains, she repeats relentlessly trying to break free,  “I believe I knew it all along, but you’re the only one that didn’t try to tell me I was wrong, until then I’ll sit and let you saw, saw away until my chains are gone”. These moments were rare, but could have lasted for hours.

Near the end of show, when Mackenzie started to play the opening bars of Honey,

two girls behind me blurted” This is what we came here for”.

The rawness on Honey is what makes Torres stand out, and there is no shortage of that from start to finish. 2 min. into Honey, Scott’s passion turns to outright fury, builds and builds and then softens leaving just as she came, a scorned lover reeling from heartbreak. “This cannot happen again, twice in a year is too much, heavy are you on my mind, [Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me]”.

It is true, Honey may have brought us all to Cake Shop Friday, but when I went home I gave the record another listen in its entirety. Although perhaps it is too soon to tell what will become of Torres and where it will go, Mackenzie Scott bares her soul in every inch of her sound until there is nothing left, picks herself up off the floor, and without fear, revels in a stark honesty that is not only rare, but enlightening.

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