Sprinter, the second record from Brooklyn (via Nashville via Macon) musician TORRES, is a masterwork of confessional songwriting and outré sonic experimentation. An equally surprising and logical extension of a sometimes brilliant, sometimes flagging self-titled debut, Sprinter is a uniquely challenging record from an increasingly confident young creator.
While the hype train surrounding the release of Sprinter has taken on extra cars and passengers, Scott remains very much true to the conviction and confliction that found her being “born on bloody battleground.” The major difference between that first outing and this one is that she’s gotten much more personal, having gained the strength to turn those conflicts outward, incinerating all oppositional forces from the first lines of the exhilarating opening track “Strange Hellos.” The unidentified “Heather” she channels her vitriol toward obviously knows who she is, as it becomes quickly apparent that Scott is not fabricating the betrayal.
I’ve sat with this album for almost two months now. My immediate reaction was passive, taking in the impressive sounds while mostly ignoring the intensely personal subject matter. Much of the record continues the voyeuristic atmosphere of “Strange Hellos”, as if the listener has unwittingly taken on the role of a pastor receiving Scott’s confessions. I’d like to think that Scott intended for this proxy effect to take hold over time, each listen peeling back a separate layer of understanding that we did not realize as necessary of such an action in the first place.
It’s more than a bit clichéd for a music writer to refer to an album as a “grower,” but Sprinter is nothing if not deserving of such a title. Only highly engaged repeat listens reveal the major thematic undercurrent of the turbulence that accompanies growing up faithful in a world that is becoming progressively devoid of it. My personal experiences coming back to the album helped to link Scott’s increasing disillusionment with organized religion to my own. Having grown up in a strictly Catholic household, I found myself relating more and more to Sprinter’s tales of the questioning of the assumed truths of religion that come with youthfully and blissfully subscribing to the teachings of parents and the community that springs up around these beliefs.
The three songs following “Strange Hellos” (the contemplative “New Skin”, the imposing “Son, You Are No Island” and the verbose “A Proper Polish Welcome”) help to set up the record’s pivotal moments.
“Sprinter” is a monster composition, using grunge as a backdrop for the phase that finds most people of my age and background starting to realize our former idols as actual humans. Pastors, musicians and athletes, the story is the same. We find out that the man preaching the Good Word has lost his way, that the person behind our favorite song is an addict, or that the glorified gladiator is an abuser. It’s a hard realization that we all have to face at some point, though not all of us are capable of clarifying it in the succinct and forceful manner that Scott does. And while she sounds strong and abrasive in the face of this epiphany, it becomes clear on the song’s spoken word bridge (“…went down for a dipso jag”) that the pain of facing your former heroes’ shortcomings is most often solved by conquering these issues through substance.
Scott herself explains the psychotropic lullaby “Cowboy Guilt” as being related to the freedom that came when she “first started drinking”, a cunning admission that nonetheless fully colors in the experiences of “bleary expectations” relayed in the track. In being so unguarded in the interviews surrounding her press tour for the record, Scott has risked any potential of being a role model by instead choosing to be a genuine person first and foremost.
The blunt truthfulness of Scott’s interviews reflects a tactic that has seen steady adoption over the past few years in the face of exhausting social media attention and decreased transparency when it comes to the two-sided mirror that previously separated the audience from the artist. Sprinter is a record that refuses to ever consider that there might be a fourth wall to break, opting to assume that the listener has the courage and respect to sit through an actual confession in which nothing is off limits. We’re the pastor and Scott is our clergy member, a role reversal that is maybe a bit alarming in an era that finds us knowing more than we should about the artists that we hold in high esteem. Sprinter pushes the conflict to the forefront, daring us to confront the void of an artist that’s just like us.
Words by Kevin Brown // Images courtesy of Shawn Brackbill and Partisan Records
TORRES plays at The Stone Fox tomorrow night, May 6th and most of Team L/S will be there. Buy tickets here. Listen to Sprinter below.[spotify https://play.spotify.com/album/69JffH9w7GDmHTmebOjlPR]