“Lay off me, would ya? / I’m just trying to take this new skin for a spin…”
Mackenzie Scott is a captivating talent. That is immediately evident when considering her success since 2013. She arose almost out of nowhere (as indie artists so often do) with her self-titled debut, including standouts like “Honey”. This grabbed the attention of several media outlets, including Pitchfork and BuzzFeed. Scott’s latest release, Sprinter, is an excellent, moving meditation on things both dark and light.
Sprinter is a mature, fuzz-drenched, doom-folk record. I say that almost facetiously, but Scott herself stated that she wanted a record that came from places both abstract and familiar. “I wanted something that very clearly stemmed from my Southern conservative roots but that sounded futuristic and space-y at the same time.” At its core, Sprinter feels as folk-based as work from contemporaries Sharon Van Etten and Laura Marling. The atmosphere around this record, however, is dark, murky, tense, and anguished. There are definitely traces of post-rock, shoegaze, and grunge throughout this record (Scott points out that Nirvana was a key influence).
Most songs here have a clear, punchy backbeat. The title track is one example, complemented by a squealing Southern-influenced guitar in the second verse. Scott doesn’t shy away from sonic exploration on Sprinter, and “Cowboy Guilt” has a driving electronic thumping beat, accompanied by gorgeous harmonies. It feels somewhere between St. Vincent and Sharon Van Etten. It’s bizarre, yet enthralling. “Ferris Wheel” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking slow-burner. One of the best lyrics on the album is found here: “There’s nothing in this world that I could show you that I’ve got the sadness too.” The sparse, minimal drum parts here add an atmospheric layer, not unlike the drumming of Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo (see: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out). The seven-minute closer “The Exchange” is purposefully minimal, just Scott and a guitar. There are some important meditations here, even though the track goes on a bit too long. At one point, Scott rips off the bandage: “I am afraid to see my heroes age.” Like many contemporary indie artists, Scott struggles with her own coming of age. Sprinter is an important work, one that offers insight into personal insecurities, fears, and hidden desires.Key Tracks: “Strange Hellos”, “New Skin”, “Sprinter”, “Ferris Wheel”, “The Exchange” Where to Go from Here: Sharon Van Etten – Tramp, Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle, She Keeps Bees – Eight Houses