By Meggie Gates
Tara Terra hits the ground running off their two-year hiatus. Lead singer Emily Blue released two solo EP albums, 69* and Another Angry Woman, outside the band during that time, showcasing abilities to flawlessly maneuver between indie-rock and synth pop. They were albums exploring the nuances of sexual liberation as a woman, compared to the indulgence of romance in Tara Terra’s music. Now, returning to her roots with the musical stylings of bassist Nick Soria, drummer Joey Buttlar, and guitarist Evan Opitz, Blue is once again ready to face heartache head on.
Blue busts the lock off a diary Tara Terra seemingly scattered throughout previous albums Where’s Your Light (2017) and Daughter (2014). It feels as if ‘couch surfer, lover’ is an EP Blue is finally letting her hair down in. Funny, considering the first track is called ‘hair down, for now.’ The song mirrors the fun, upbeat feeling of earlier songs like Don’t Call Me Darlin’ without such a heavy chorus. “Would you wait for me,” Blue asks as the drums and guitar slow down, “I want you to say it for me,” she addresses the subject, as if her fate is in their hands, before realizing the power of purpose is in hers. “Or do I need to let go? I need to let go,” she asks, the vocals overlaid in the second chorus, the chords upbeat and poppy, the kind you can’t help but shuffle your feet to as if a specific dance already existed.
The EP focuses on a strained romance between two people balancing their own emotional state made difficult by life on the road. Doing what’s right for yourself paralleled at the expense of another is introduced perfectly by Tara Terra’s thematic use of cheerful music. When the lyrics turn around to face how strong the narrator is, the words are so pronounced there’s no mistaking them. “I am a ray of fucking sunshine, so why won’t you let me in?” rings throughout ithaca, the band’s debut single. The song so beautifully overlays the loss of self in a relationship when you love someone so much:
“This would be heartache if I weren’t in it
This would be heartache
I could see the cracks in the floor if I weren’t sitting
Right on the part where it breaks”
The self-awareness of a fractured relationship hard to detach from carries throughout the record. The emotional rawness and intensity of ithaca bleeds in to the more subdued lions’ manes, a gut-wrenching punch to the stomach. Juxtaposed against the first half of the album, the song teases us with piano chords so soft and unexpected, it feels you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to. This is nothing new for Tara Terra, who often slow down albums to showcase talent. It’s the necessary lead in to a conclusion you know is coming, but aren’t ready for. Write My Name and Shades of Blue are two exceptional examples of this, but none split a story as effectively as lions’ manes does. A middle to a story exploring the wandering feeling of loss:
“And when we took a drive through my hometown,
I remembered the smell of the air
I think sometimes I get lost in the city
It gets colder quicker here”
Without a doubt, this lyric captures the entire essence of the EP, feeling so at home with someone else sharing the rug they’ve swept out from under you. The desire to build a home from rubble is a search that drives Tara Terra’s music towards love. Where hair down, for now and ithaca are the beginning half of a story that yearns, new york and couch surfer are the necessary revelation that comes with life. The answer to what happens when everyone takes from you and leaves nothing behind.
Opening with a melancholier start, new york gives pulse to a heart tired of pumping. The narrator finds themselves in a place they’ve never been before and realizes it’s not as scary as they initially thought. “I’m so afraid of the winter. Somehow, right now, I don’t mind.” The feeling is made stronger as the music grows more confident, starting off slow before allowing itself to grow in to a full out, rock ballad. “You’re so afraid of the future. Somehow, I’ve run out of answers,” Blue sings. The idea being that if they refuse to start, you never will.
The EP ends with couch surfer, arguably the most beautiful song on the album. It feels like this is the necessary conclusion Tara Terra has been searching for endlessly, not only on this EP, but on Where’s Your Light and Daughter as well. Blue often sings of heartache and loss connected to family ties, searching for love to make up for twisted roots, but here, Tara Terra finally finds reconciliation laid out in previous lyrics. Borrowed was one of their first songs reassuring the narrator they’ll be fine, but couch surfer is putting that in to practice. It’s throwing yourself in to the fire and stepping on the train that leads nowhere. The beauty of living is the fall and the catch. Falling in love and catching yourself after. Couch surfer, lover is about the pain of romance, yes, but it’s also about the pain of finding yourself. When you’re at the finish line helping others hobble over.
“Just let me hold your hand if it’s alright
Let me tell you how to make it alright
To be a lonely child”
The ins and outs of a relationship seem so desirable when you’re not in them. Sometimes they come so fast in the rearview mirror you don’t have time to process how close they are until they pound on your front door to remind you what pain and pleasure tastes like. Tara Terra captures this feeling so effervescently, Blue’s soft voice bursting at the seams, giving life to words flowing uncontrollably. Running without any destination in mind. ‘couch surfer, lover’ is the mixtape from high school that still aches to think about. It’s the road trip you imagined taking with a loved one before you decide to drive west without them. Cracks in the floor already existed, but now you’re at the part where they break.