‘Heartfelt’ is such a difficult target. A millimetre one way and people start to assume you’re taking the piss. A millimetre the other way and people start taking the piss.
Mackenzie Scott, aka Torres, has for two albums managed to hit that spot. It was particularly impressive for her debut, where there was so little else that she could have hidden behind had it not. The record was mostly just her, a guitar and a wounded series of confessional tales that threaded the aforementioned needle of heartfeltness.
But album number two, Sprinter, made with a little help from Portishead’s Adrian Utley, offered more. Drawn from a broader palette, there was more variation, more instruments and at times a bunch more volume, but it also managed to maintain that which made that first record so beguiling.
Essentially Torres started off good, then got better and, on tonight’s evidence, hasn’t peaked yet. You can apportion it to what you like, condescendingly nod towards artistic growth, daaahling, if you’re that way inclined, but for whatever reason there stands a performer who seems increasingly confident in her material and her abilities.
The songs seem exaggerated. Quiet bits seem quieter, loud bits seem louder. Scott and her band tear through the moments where tracks explode in cathartic rage but then linger, painfully over the old wounds her songwriting seems to revel in pawing over.
Her voice does play a large part in all of that, alternating between a throaty howl and a fragile whisper, driving and conducting the changes in tempo which are part of what makes this so impressive. There is a hint of PJ Harvey’s gothic drama in the grungy opening of Mother Earth, Father God and New Skin, the wonkier riffs of Cowboy Guilt have in them a murmur of St Vincent’s android like guitar style. But across Son, You Are No Island she begins to suggest she’s destined to carve a niche all of her own.
It is discordant and off-putting, a smattering of electronics competing for prominence with the guitars, and Scott’s voice drifting down from a disembodied calm to casting down upon the guilty with furious vengeful anger.
Although, in between songs, there isn’t the same atmosphere. “Thank you very much for being here. This is awesome,” she says at one point, in a tone of such sincerity that a thousand Londoners simultaneously wonder if that’s the first time they’ve heard someone successfully use the phrase awesome deployed in an non-ironic way.
So she has proven she can do heartfelt and now she proves can do sincere. Everything else on the way to world domination should be a complete walk in the park.