When I first heard Tara Terra on Audiotree Live last year, I immediately wanted to see them play a festival. The song that got me was called “Center Part,” a punchy rocker that closed out their session. It opened with a growl and blossomed into a crashing jam with parts that galloped, parts that thrashed and parts you could dance to. The band seamlessly built up to crescendo after crescendo without ever exhausting the moment. If you can create and control energy like that, you can rock an outdoor show.
Press play on Tara Terra’s new album Where’s Your Light? and you’ll be greeted by a similar riff, only the low growl is now a vicious snarl, and Joey Buttlar’s drumming sounds like a series of meteorites smacking the Earth. Emily Blue‘s vocal performance is spellbinding; she infuses the song’s new lyrics with electric sorrow and determination. Everything positive about “Center Part” is even better on “Feral Heart,” a reworked version of the song that had previously caught my ear. Without the violin heard on Audiotree, there’s increased focus on Blue’s voice- which is a strength of the entire record. Guitar player Colin Althaus nails his parts, shifting between dance rock, ambling melodies and effervescent bombast as needed. It’s a perfect song to kick off the record, and a perfect introduction to Tara Terra.
They continue with “Feel Better,” a pulsing alt-rock tune about a couple who have run their course. Despite the bummer subject matter it’s a fairly uplifting song. It also ends with an awesome tantrum from Buttlar that sounds like he’s trying to escape the relationship by battering down the front door.
Love and loss, coping with them and learning from them are threads that run throughout Where’s Your Light? “Like the Clothes” finds another two people on the verge of breaking up, struggling with romantic nostalgia and fear of the unknown. If “Feel Better” is the song to convince your partner to move on, “Like the Clothes” is the song to convince yourself. While the lyrics here are also fairly depressing, the music is again upbeat and unpredictable. One of the things that makes Tara Terra such an exciting band is their ability to weave together a variety of styles and ideas in a song while making each movement feel intuitive and spontaneous. By the end of a song you’re saying, “I didn’t think that’s where that was going to go, but that’s where it should have went.”
When they’re rocking, Tara Terra sound a bit Smashing Pumpkins, a bit Young the Giant, a bit Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Dynamic as they’re capable of being, they’re also phenomenal stripped down. One of the most memorable tracks on Where’s Your Light? is “Write My Name,” a wintry acoustic song that finds Blue dueting with Eric Stanley of Champaign emo outfit euriah. For the first time on the album, the loss being examined is death. A combination of chilling harmonies and a crisp, patient melody gives what would be an otherwise sad song an added shock of despair. The bridge is heartbreaking- a tense free-fall wherein Blue sounds on the verge of tears.
Heartbreak aside, Where’s Your Light? is far from being a downer record. “Overnight” is an airy, soothing mediation on accepting the chaos of how quickly things can change. It builds slowly to a burst of spiraling guitars that’s joyous and damn near life-affirming. “Lorelei” is a mystical stomper with a similarly explosive payoff, and the added bonus of a little drum and bass, clap-along section that a good live band could have a lot of fun milking.
Tara Terra close the album with its most epic track, “I Need To Know Why.” Blue gives another compelling performance and the band as a whole does an incredible job navigating a song that covers a lot of ground. It’s a big performance that moves from ethereal twinkling to fuzzy riffs and thudding beats to a full on hurricane. Althaus’s blistering guitar charges the band to a beautiful, skronky finale.
Where’s Your Light? is easily one of the best new albums I’ve heard this year. Top-notch musicianship, stellar songwriting and captivating, emotional lyrics- not sure what the hell else I could want in an alt-rock record! Recommended if you’re looking for a new favorite band this summer.
Where’s Your Light? is available now on CD and digital download via Bandcamp. Tara Terra is on the road throughout the Midwest this summer, next appearing at H! Bar in Chicago on Friday, July 21st (9 PM, FREE, All Ages) RSVP.
7/21 Chicago, IL – H! Bar
8/7 St. Louis, MO
8/10 Madison, WI – The Frequency
8/12 Hamtramck, MI – Ghost Light Hamtramck
8/16 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop
8/24 New York, NY
8/26 Chicago, IL – Schuba’s