Review Summary: Finding the way again
The sound of Torres's previous album, coupled with the label's subsequent treatment reveals 4AD's intentions to be little more than an attempt at a quick buck off a St. Vincent knockoff. The material sounded stiff, the moolah failed to materialise, the artist got unceremoniously dumped. Three Futures will remain a bit of a black sheep in the discography, serving as a cautionary tale against the product-minded approach of the music industry. Mackenzie took a while to dust herself off from this turn of events, but eventually resurfaced on a new label with a self-produced album tracked at a hometown studio.
Silver Tongue does not attempt to distance itself from its predecessor, but rather improve on its shortcomings. Synths are the dominant texturing of choice, but gravitate towards warmer tones with lusher arrangements that wrap themselves around the dulcet vocals. Lead guitar counterpoint is more deliberate, and provides one of the album's most satisfying moments as the melody dancing around the chorus to "Good Grief" becomes a soaring bridge a bit later. Crucially, Torres also feels more connected to the subject matter, which is more melancholic than last time. The chronicled thorny on-again, off-again relationship lends a sense of urgency, an underlying current of anxiety about everything coming tumbling down. It may not quite be the gut-punching Existenzangst of the highlights off her first two albums, but we're likely never getting stuff like that again.
The album's main flaw is a rather unusual one - Mackenzie seems to have forgotten how to end songs. On numerous occasions, rather than reaching a satisfying or at least sensible conclusion, the tracks randomly sputter out and drop instrumentation. This was particularly noticeable with the singles, but sticks out less when there's another song to chase the awkwardly terminated one within a few seconds. Also, the title track does not quite live up to the standard of Torres's previous closers, but sports some contemplative lyrics on the power of song crafting. All things considered, Silver Tongue is Torres finding the way again, learning from what didn't work out with Three Futures and properly making a synth-heavy album. All the things that felt rushed or uneasy have now been ironed out and recalibrated. Even the retained fuzz flourishes don't feel derivative. When the pieces really come together in the opening two tracks, the record almost reaches the same highs as the corresponding tracks from Sprinter, and that's saying something. Where to next?