Every now and then I’ll pick up and review an album at random, with differing results. This was one of them. The only thing I knew about Torres when I signed up was that she had just been announced on the lineup for Green Man 2020, a festival I will be attending in August. Because I struggle to attend an event such as this without having given every artist on the poster at least a cursory listen, I said ‘fuck it’ and decided to throw myself in at the deep end. And thank fuck for that.
Silver Tongue had me from the get-go. From the opening line of ‘Are you planning to love me through the bars of a golden cage?’ in first song ‘Good Scare’ and all the way through to the title song that closes the album, this is indie-pop of the highest order. Torres, whose real name is Mackenzie Scott, has a voice that can cut your emotions to shreds and the lyrical prowess to go with it. She tells short, sometimes mystical, stories that leave you wanting more. The song that seems to be getting the most attention since the album’s release is ‘Good Grief’ which opens with a verse of ‘Tonight I’ll sit at the bar on St. Mark’s where we met/If I stayed away from all the places we have been together/I couldn’t go anywhere/Anymore’, before moving onto a glorious chorus of ‘Good grief, baby/There’s no such thing’. In so few words, she evokes so much imagery, so much pain, and so much that’s relatable. It’s a skill she’ll use throughout the album.
‘Dressing America’ is another highlight, and the chorus of ‘I tend to sleep with my boots on/Should I need to gallop over dark waters/To you, on short notice’ has been trotting round and round in my mind for weeks. Here, Torres manage to create a pop song that is incredibly catchy without being even slightly irritating. And in almost all of the songs on display here, you find that kind of balance. At times she might edge towards been sickly sweet, but there’s a darkness that prevents it. If you think she’s too serious, she’ll say something that makes you smile. And, most importantly, at any time when she appears to become too sentimental there will be a sense that everything she says is so genuine that it doesn’t matter.
That is particularly evident in my personal favourite track from the album, the achingly beautiful ‘Gracious Day.’ The repeated refrain of ‘I don’t want you going home, anymore/I want you coming home’ is heartfelt and gorgeous. And as Torres sings it repeatedly over a simple acoustic guitar line, it is almost impossible not to let it sweep you away. It’s beautiful.
But if I could offer a caveat to the heaps of praise I have just placed on this 32 minutes of music, it is that I can imagine how some listeners might find it a little soft and floaty. I could understand that. It took me a few listens to get past that, and the obvious St Vincent influence, to appreciate this as fully as I now do. But after going to see her perform at Manchester’s YES just last week, I can see that this isn’t all she is about. She knows how to rock, too. It was a fantastic performance which made me think that, while this might be the best album released in 2020 so far, there is likely a lot to love in her previous three LPs as well. I look forward to finding out.
Words by Fran Slater