LIVE REVIEW: Courtney Barnett @ Terminal 5


Since the March release of her first full-length album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has become pretty popular. Popular enough that on Wednesday she both headlined and sold out a show at Manhattan’s Terminal 5, which has a capacity of roughly 3,000 people. The Australian rocker was supported by Torres and Speedy Ortiz, who recently released their own albums, Sprinter and Foil Deer.

Barnett opened her set with a drawn-out, solo version of “Anonymous Club.” Her endearing voice filled every inch of the venue until even the drunk dudes using the quiet to shout catcalls with fake Australian accents were silenced. When she wasn’t at the mic she reeled around the stage, whipping her hair and strumming furiously. On recordings, her drawl is relaxed, shifting from weary to playful, but on stage, the lyrics come spilling out. At key crescendos she’d replace syllables and whole words a shout or roar, the only thing that could match the intensity on songs like her encore of “History Eraser.”

The best part of the show (besides the music, obviously) was seeing the huge, three-tier venue completely packed for a show fronted by female guitarists. Not guitarists in the sense that they’re strumming a few chords while they sing- they’re rocking strats and telecasters, pushing their instruments and voices to the limit. Sadie Dupuis (of Speedy Ortiz) forgoes any delicate melodies in favor of harsh guitar lines that leave a jagged edge as they cut through swaggering songs. Mackenzie Scott, aka Torres, accompanies herself on guitar with a steady, loping beat- her tone is serious, focused, and slightly dangerous. One of the show’s best moments was during her song “Strange Hellos.” It’s cathartic enough as a recording, but she suddenly let out a chilling shriek in between choruses: “I was all for being real/ But if I don’t believe then no one will.”

When I saw Courtney Barnett a year ago, her set had energy and charisma, but seemed rushed. This time around, she brought a new intensity and confidence to her performance. Before, I remember her ending her set by disappearing from the stage. On Wednesday, however, she dropped her guitar and walked off as the feedback shrieked and wailed at the audience. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t headlining then or her fame was relatively new, but now, she seems to have settled into a more natural, comfortable position: a total rockstar.

If you missed the show, check out a live version of Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian At Best” below!

ALBUM REVIEW: Torres “Sprinter”


A few days before her album began streaming on NPR, Mackenzie Scott tweeted a complaint about an overused, somewhat vague genre of music: “Can anybody define “indie”? What does “indie” mean to you? Would love to see it eradicated from the vernacular/it’s gross like ‘hipster.'”

Though she’s just 24, the singer who records and performs as Torres creates music that defies her age and easy categorization (“indie” definitely doesn’t do it justice). The Georgia native has a voice that effortlessly projects raw emotion, whether subdued on sparser tracks or unleashed alongside guitar contributed by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

The contrast between her songs —and even within them— makes each aspect of her sound all the more impressive, and Scott wastes no time showing it off.  She begins the first track, “Strange Hellos,” with a barely audible whisper, before breaking into a full-fledged, tortured ballad: “I was all for being real/ But if I don’t believe, then no one will,” she repeats, with more and more angst. It’s a hell of a way to start an album filled with frustration, longing, relationships, and sense of self.

It’s also an album that struggles with faith. Like others in the throes of adulthood, she’s shrugging off religion, or at least questioning an upbringing that revolves around it. As she said in a recent interview“Rock and roll ended my religion… rock and roll is my new religion!” But, maybe not indie?

You can check out the video for “Sprinter” below, and stream the album here.

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Mackenzie Scott is primed to explode. Making music since 2012 under the moniker TORRES, that explosion might refer to her combustible stage performance or her rocket-like trajectory as she prepares to release her sophomore album Sprinter on May 5th via Partisan Records. After her self-titled debut garnered near-unanimous acclaim and got her noticed by the likes of Sharon Van Etten (who invited her both to guest-star on SVE’s Are We There as well as tour with her in support of the record), the Brooklynite snagged production help from Rob Ellis, who’s best known for his work with none other than PJ Harvey.  It’s easy to draw comparisons between TORRES’ sound and that of Polly Jean; both women have a raw, aggressive approach to both vocals and lyrics that’s particularly stirring. Though Scott was born in 1991, the grunge-era influence can be felt in every searing guitar riff and in every powerful, distorted utterance.

NPR, Rolling Stone, and a bevy of others have named TORRES on their lists of must-see acts at SXSW, but even if you can’t get down to Austin, you can check out the video for latest Sprinter single “Strange Hellos,” directed by Casey Pierce. As the song’s title suggests, the track and its accompanying visuals are a healthy mix of beckoning and foreboding. Dramatic lighting illuminates Scott’s steady gaze, the musculature of her voice and silhouette mirroring one another in the opening verses. By the time the jagged riffs of the chorus open up, Scott’s face is bathed in projections from 2001: A Space Odyssey as she bellows “What’s mine isn’t really yours/But I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

TORRES isn’t stopping with SXSW, she’ll be taking much of the US and parts of Canada by storm as she tours in support of Sprinter this May and June. Dates for the tour are below.

Tue-Mar-17 Austin, TX Ground Control Party at The Mohawk – SXSW
Wed-Mar-18 Austin, TX Central Presbyterian Church – SXSW
Wed-Mar-18 Austin, TX Pitchfork Party at The Mohawk – SXSW
Thu-Mar-19 Austin, TX AV Club Party at Cheer Up Charlie’s – SXSW
Fri-Mar-20 Austin, TX Culture Collide / Doc Martens Party at Bar 96 – SXSW
Sat-Mar-21 Austin, TX The Wild Honey Pie Party at Scoot Inn – SXSW
Sat-Mar-21 Austin, TX Under The Radar Party at Central Presbyterian Church – SXSW
Mon-May-04 Saxapahaw, NC Haw River Ballroom
Wed-May-06 Nashville, TN The Stone Fox
Fri-May-08 Dallas, TX Club Dada
Sat-May-09 Austin, TX The Mohawk
Mon-May-11 Scottsdale, AZ Pub Rock Live
Tue-May-12 Los Angeles, CA The Echo
Wed-May-13 San Francisco, CA Bottom Of The Hill
Fri-May-15 Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge
Sat-May-16 Seattle, WA Barboza
Sun-May-17 Vancouver, BC Electric Owl
Wed-May-20 Minneapolis, MN 7th St. Entry
Thu-May-21 Chicago, IL The Empty Bottle
Fri-May-22 Detroit, MI UFO Factory
Sat-May-23 Toronto, ON The Garrison
Wed-May-27 Brooklyn, NY Baby’s All Right
Thu-Jun-25 Allston, MA Great Scott
Fri-Jun-26 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
Sat-Jun-27 Philadelphia, PA Boot & Saddle
Sun-Jun-28 Washington, DC DC9
Tue-Jun-30 Durham, NC The Pinhook
Wed-Jul-01 Atlanta, GA The Earl
Thu-Jul-02 Chattanooga, TN Rhythm & Brews