"THE DARKNESS FEARS what darkness knows."
This cryptic line—half-sung, half-stated by Torres at the end of "New Skin"—might be one of the reasons the word "confessional" has been repeatedly attached to her music. The songs on Sprinter, Torres' newly released second album, can feel so boldly direct that surely they must stem from fact. But the actual truth is that Torres isn't interested in confessions.
"I've had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around people's perceptions," says Torres, whose real name is Mackenzie Scott. "Yeah, you're right, that word is everywhere. Honestly, I don't think my music is confessional—it's a bit of an insult. It's interesting that people think that everything I'm writing is verbatim my life, autobiographical. I'm not quite sure where people are coming from when they slap that term on the music."
Regardless of their fact-or-fiction nature, Scott's songs have personal elements. For Sprinter, Scott traveled to Dorset, England, to work with producer Rob Ellis, who collaborates with PJ Harvey. The distance from home allowed Scott to examine her Southern Baptist upbringing, which has played a large part in her writing.
"I feel like, more than anything, it was just being away from my home, away from my normal responsibilities [that] allowed me to create the world that I wanted to there," Scott says. "Obviously, it's gorgeous, and I haven't seen anything like that in the States. But the reason for going to England was purely economical. That being said, being in the area I was, with the rolling hills and the seaside and the quiet and the air—I can't even remember the last time I breathed air that clean—I'm not exactly sure what direct influence it has on the recording, but I know that it did. I don't think that exact recording could've been done anywhere else."
The result is an album woven with sonic intensity; melodies seem to penetrate rather than lilt, and the lyrics get to the point, even if the point feels slightly elusive. There are light veils of crunchy distortion and spacey pedal work, but the meat of these songs is crisp rock. Scott's voice is upfront and rich, matched with straightforward clean drumbeats and thick guitar chords, sounding slightly reminiscent of contemporaries like Sharon Van Etten. The songs can seem dark, but for Scott it's less about catharsis and more about continual growth.
"The songs have evolved for me," Scott says. "I won't say they take on entirely different meanings, but they've evolved, especially in the way they sound, so a lot of times I'm focusing on that aspect rather than the words I'm saying. I don't have to dwell on the things I'm singing about."
Dark, light, fact, fiction—Sprinter isn't about finding a key to unlock Scott. Rather, she says, it's about finding something for yourself.
"I just hope in general it connects. Obviously [it won't with] everyone, but with the people who do, I just hope it brings healing on some level, perhaps. If anything, I hope it helps certain people to feel less alone."