The Seattle band Tullycraft helped conjure an image of their hometown with the album title City of Subarus, and while it's a less punchy-sounding crown, Nashville can lay claim to something like "City of Wispy Forgettable Confessional Singer-Songwriters Who Go by Their First and Last Names." So, to distinguish herself, somewhere between acquiring her first electric guitar, changing up her songwriting approach and graduating from college, Mackenzie Scott adopted the monomial stage name Torres.
"It's a family name," says the 22-year-old Belmont songwriting graduate, and she likes the ambiguity of it. "It sounds like it could be a person, or it could be a band." Scott's debut under her assumed name sounds very much like the work of a person, rather than a band, even with contributions from some notable Nashville musicians. Poly's Larissa Maestro adds a few well-placed dashes of cello, and Natalie Prass harmonizes beautifully on the haltingly fragile ballad "November Baby."
Self-released in January and quickly the subject of some high-volume blogging thanks to its ravishing lead single, "Honey," Torres comes across as deeply personal throughout. The album's 10 songs are held together at the sometimes-fraying seams by Scott's voice, which can rise from ragged whisper to raspy howl in the crash of a chord. Torres is best in the moments when everything feels suddenly loose and on the verge of flying apart, and the intensity spikes and subsides. But even the more conventional folk-based material is convincingly conveyed, as on "Moon and Back," which Scott sings from the perspective of a mother giving up her child for adoption. (Some quick math will lead you to the conclusion that the child in the song and Scott herself are the same age.)
Having assembled a band to take out on a late-winter tour, Scott says she's heartened — and a little overwhelmed — by the response she's gotten since the first two tracks found their way to the Internet. Looks like she was on to something with the name change after all.