Written by Luke McGavin
Three Futures is the third album from Nashville singer-songwriter TORRES (aka Mackenzie Scott), and her first release on iconic alternative label 4AD. After her comparatively raucous 2015 album Sprinter, Rob Ellis remains the producer but Scott has taken a more direct and restrained approach to her emotive style of songwriting on this new album, with mixed results.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this album upon first listen is the surprising amount of groove in some of the tracks, usually supplied by a fairly simplistic drum pattern. Songs like Righteous Woman and Bad Baby Pie are prime examples of this, where a driving beat sits underneath the angular guitar lines that make up the melodies, creating an oddly danceable end product. While this change from the rougher and more distorted sounds of her previous LP and 2013 self-titled debut is largely successful, there are moments when it is not so effective. On Greener Stretch, the attempt at creating a similarly enticing rhythm results only in a rigidity that leaves the track feeling stagnant and stale.
Glimpses of TORRES’ previous sounds can also be picked up in certain songs, such as Concrete Ganesha, where the weighty guitar sounds compliment the intensity of Scott’s vocal delivery for significant dramatic effect. This blending of intense anger but also beauty is something that not only gives the album an extra layer of sonic depth and shows TORRES’ versatility in performance and songwriting.
Thematically, this record provides a sombre and melancholic outlook on relationships and the self. On the title track, Scott presents a relationship, which is about to end despite the enthusiasm of one of the people in it, singing:
“I hope what you will remember
Is not how I left but how I entered
And not the hope that I abused”
This bleak portrayal of relationships continues on Helen In The Woods, where TORRES shows (in her words) the effects of ‘control and possession’ and how they ‘motivate people to act in ways even they themselves couldn’t have imagined’:
“Never spoke a single lie
Still no one believes your side”
The tone of this record is overwhelmingly melancholic and mournful, but in an intensely personal way, especially towards the end of the album. TORRES herself describes the track Marble Focus as her ‘best attempt at encapsulating the moment right before coming down from the best high you’ve ever felt’ which contains ‘pre-emptive disappointment for what will be lost’. This somewhat depressing idea is presented beautifully in this more minimal cut, which gradually builds to a dreamy climax of wailing walls of guitars. The 8 minute long closing track To Be Given A Body provides a similarly low-key moment in the record, but with much less effect, as it gets rather monotonous and dreary, with little being added to keep the song progressing.
This is the main issue with Three Futures, sometimes even though the ideas are there, TORRES’ execution of them is lacking and her ideas can come slightly convoluted.
In the opening track Tongue Slap Your Brains Out, the pulsating drive of the instrumental coupled with Scott’s vocals results only in a messy tune, which lacks in direction, whereas so many others on the album combined the same features to a much greater effect. The vague but enticing lyrics littered all over the LP are also verging on the impenetrable and flaunty on this song:
“Knowing you were laundry-folding just outside the bedroom door,
I slept near it
Knowing you would carry half the hapless buzzing of my dilated spirit”
Three Futures is still a remarkably solid record from TORRES and displays her developing her sound with largely successful results. It is an album that although at points is faulty, after listening to it has a prolonged effect on you simply because of the emotions and ideas channelled into it.
Speaking about the title track, TORRES said in a recent interview that ‘there is glory in being an earthly creature … but there is also agony‘. This provides a fitting summary of the release, as it encapsulates a wide range of base human feeling in a poignant, beautiful and oddly catchy way that is definitely worth checking out.
Listen to the album below: