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Sometimes we reach moments in life when we are able to objectively look at ourselves and what drives us. Our automatic responses to life's circumstances and core beliefs fueling our thought processes become lucid. Torres' second record is about this self-insight and what she chooses to do with that awareness. Its title, Sprinter, echoes the immediacy of her songwriting and lyrical theme of perpetually fleeing from her fears.
For the album, Mackenzie Scott assembled co-producer and drummer Rob Ellis and bassist Ian Oliver - both known for their work with PJ Harvey - as well as Portishead's Adrian Utley on guitars and synthesizers to bring her new songs into fruition. Their interplay as a collective writhes in Mackenzie Scott's almost-physiological need to make music. The gratification of Sprinter is rooted in hearing an artist imparting the complex emotions that cripple her with words. She delves into her relationships with others, family, self-esteem, and finding a steady place to stand in the world.
Being immersed in water is a recurring motif throughout the record; "You'll drown to save yourself" on the omnipotent 'Son, You Are No Island', while she defiantly asserts "Poseidon only knows what I've seen" on 'A Proper Polish Welcome'. The notion accumulates at the record's finale when she envisions herself drowning on 'The Exchange'. She closes by examining the thin line between being able to manage our circumstances and being choked by them. On her debut album, 'Moon & Back' was written from the perspective of the singer-songwriter's birth mother, who subsequently gave to her up for adoption. 'The Exchange', a one-take outdoor recording, eloquently grips at the deep-rooted sadness that follows her everywhere in life. She recalls her family history, fear of her loved-ones dying and her resilience, as birds chirp and a hen crows in the background. She directly addresses her parents, as each sung "underwater" becomes more leaden, admitting "I don't think you can pull me out."
Thus, a contradiction lies in the album's title suggesting that it runs from her deep suffering, when in fact she has achieved a body of work that squares up to those long-standing fears and anxieties. The stirring title song describes her enlightenment resulting from her healing: "There's freedom to and freedom from, Freedom to run from everyone." Scott decides to accept the darkness, but ultimately, stands in the light ("If there's still time I'll choose the sun and run it back to everyone").
Torres' second album is dynamic in its poeticism and sound; from the beatific riff on 'New Skin' to the hyperphysical rage of 'Strange Hellos' that bellows like a dormant volcano erupting following a decade's silence. Every word, sound and detail has an essential quality to it - that they need to be there. Her lyrics concern understanding our vulnerability regardless of how debilitating it may feel. The captivating character of this record comes from her skill as a songwriter to be both fragile in her insecurities while taking everything in her stride. Sprinter is a vital album.
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