Torres' Biting 'Silver Tongue'

On January 27, 2020

Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Silver Tongue, the new album from Torres.

Silver Tongue, the fourth album from Mackenzie Scott’s Torres, starts with dramatic programmed beats and her ethereal voice flying out of the depths. But really, Silver Tongue started with a single Tweet a couple years ago: “My former label, @4AD_Official, has decided to drop me from a 3 album deal for not being commercially successful enough. Also, fuck the music industry.” 4AD had been the label that Scott wanted Torres on from the beginning; her gnarled and swirling approach to alt-rock draws inspiration from the label’s eclectic roster. After a period where she felt like quitting music all together following getting dropped, Scott hunkered down for close to two years, writing the songs that would become Silver Tongue, an album filled with melodramatic, theatrical love songs, filtered through the country music of Scott’s youth. As the album reached its completion, she signed with another legacy indie rock imprint, Merge, and put the finishing touches on Silver Tongue, which, all things considered, might be her best LP.

If Silver Tongue can be summed up by a single line, it’s from the first single, and first track on the album, “Good Scare”: “I’d sing about knockin’ you up under Tennessee stars,” Scott sings to her girlfriend, before adding as an addendum, “In the bed of my red Chevrolet pickup.” Throughout the album, Scott is a sauntering, lovestruck cowboy, singing about knowing a lover in a past life (“Last Forest”), recognizing the softer side in a new fling (“Records of Your Tenderness”), and making space in your life via settling down (“Two of Everything” and “Gracious Day”). Like Mitski, Orville Peck, and Lil Nas X, Torres deconstructs the archetype of a cowboy by subverting it, which was the album’s ultimate goal, she told FADER. “I'm going to preface this by saying I love men — I don't want you to get the wrong idea here. But it's fun to go into it being both demeaning to men, because I'm appropriating something that historically has belonged to them, but also to take it for myself. That makes me feel powerful.”

The album’s finest moment is the howling and desolate closing title track, where Torres dissects the slick-talkers of the album’s title. In the song, she covers being told by her religious teachers that everything she sings would be believed (it’s own kind of silver tongue, and a dangerous one), being worried you’ve been talked into a staying in a relationship despite reservations (another silver tongue), and convincing someone to stay when they have reservations (again, a silver tongue comes in handy in that situation). The song also features some of Torres’ best production; it’s a vacuum of small cymbals and crashes and bass kicks, with just a hint of a guitar, letting the words hit hard. After an album filled with certainty, and depictions of love fulfilled, to end the album in a broiling way feels honest and impactful, for an album that is just that.

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Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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