Forget the future; Torres' present album is her best yet.4AD, 2017
9.3 / 10
One thing is for certain for Torres, the project of Mackenzie Scott. She only gets better with each new album. Perhaps it’s because she tweaks the formula just enough so that each album has just enough progression while also retaining the previous work’s stellar choices. Some artists would just throw us into an unexpected change with no warning while wanting us to accept it as a good thing. Hey, I liked the new Arcade Fire album, but many DID NOT. The point is that Scott doesn’t haphazardly drop us off a cliff on Three Futures. Rather, we can crawl down safely, but as the album moves along, we get the urge to climb down faster. It’s THAT good.
So, how did we get here? Torres’ self-titled debut was kind of quiet. Then, the follow-up Sprinter was louder. And now with Three Futures, the volume cranks up even more. But she does so without relying as much on the cool guitar rock sound of Sprinter. Instead, Three Futures finds Torres’ music getting an electronic makeover with industrial and Krautrock textures to flesh out her music even more. Scott is a superfan of St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, (Scott even has a St. Vincent tattoo!), and you can’t help but hear a heavier St. Vincent influence on this album.
And then, what’s even funnier, not so much in a haha way, but an interesting way is that St. Vincent also has a new album coming out soon. It’s called Masseduction with “seduction” being the keyword. Her album and Three Futures both focus on intimacy, which suggests both musicians are currently in the same state of mind. And Scott especially seems to be nearing that same indie icon territory where fans regard St. Vincent.
Even the album’s opening song, “Tongue Slap Your Brains Out”, has such an odd title that it recalls St. Vincent’s quirkiest titled songs like “Laughing With A Mouth of Blood”. Then, when you actually get into Three Futures‘ opener, it carries an emotional weight, which the title doesn’t hint at. Here, Scott sings about identity and how our location can often obscure that from people we know. “I know you never dreamed/ I’d become a damn Yankee/ I need you to believe/ That I’m still your same baby,” she sings, a reference to moving from the south to Brooklyn. Later, she follows this sentiment up with the album’s closing lyric, “If you could only see/ It’s still the Georgia winds that move me.”
What’s most apparent in this song and several of the others is Scott’s confidence. She sounds powerful in these songs, not scared to let her voice rise above everything going on. It makes the song’s otherwise simple melodies land with epic effect. I mentioned the album’s intimacy being at the forefront, particularly sexual desire. Here, Scott is just as confident. On “Righteous Woman” she sings, “I’m not a righteous woman/ I’m more of an ass man,” she sings with a husky tone. “Bad Baby Pie” feels vaguely explicit. “I’ll make it worth every sleepless night/ I’ll make it worth every last bite/ Of that bad baby pie,” she sings over a simple electronic melody that gets funky in the chorus.
On an album of standouts, one that really stands out is the sinister “Helen In The Woods”. The song has a Nick Cave-esque creepiness to it. Here, Scott sounds possessed with a demon; nearly foaming at the mouth as she sings maybe about a misunderstood woman (Helen) or one that just drives others to insane behavior. Although she’s not misunderstood, Mackenzie Scott is driving us to similar insane behavior. Obsession in this case because Three Futures is SO good.