By Karoline Gonzalez – Student Journalist
After going viral on YouTube and all across social media platforms, surpassing 90M views on their single “Jungle,” Australian singer and song-writer Tash Sultana has stepped back into the charts following the release of their latest album Terra Firma—an ode to their newfound balance and grounded state of mind, according to NME magazine. “Terra firma is the ground, the earth, you put your feet on it to remember where you are, what you’re from,” said the artist on an interview. “It’s a reminder that we are only human at the end of the day. Part of one big system and no one really knows the answers to how and why.”
From self-recording tracks in their bedroom in 2016 and three years since their debut studio album, Terra Firma embodies to full capacity the raw talent, dedication and versatility carried by the multi-instrumentalist. The album’s opening song “Musk” effortlessly defends multiple media claims calling Sultana a “one person band,” to which they support through a vast array of sounds ranging from groovy keys, a dreamy bass, soft percussion and wind instruments, as well as reverbed strings and the accompanying synth.
Others have compared the artist to musical legends like Erykah Badu, Prince, and even Tame Impala—praiseful comments, indeed. But the truth is that the music exerted through Sultana’s vivid lyrics and instrumentals places them in a unique musical category bringing together fellow artists as inspirations yet delivering a sound that is truly their own. While the beginning of the album depicts themes of hope, love and success, the storyline swiftly shifts into one of longing and unrequited affairs yet manages to come full circle ending on a note of liberation. “And when the sun comes down,” they sing “I surrender to the night/And I will kiss away my pride/And I know it will find me one day/All in good time.” As the title suggests “Greed” serves as a reminder that when the time comes, and all is said and done, we take none of the earthly tasks we troubled ourselves with and in turn, it is the details of the present that shall stand throughout the life’s journey.
“Pretty Lady,” the fifth song on the album and one of its first released singles embodies Sultana’s journey from singing in the streets of Melbourne, Australia to selling out entire concerts even at the most prestigious of venues. “I used to freestyle this song to the passers-by, trying to make a coin, trying to win them over, trying to bring them into the jam and out of the daily commute. The nine-to-five, working for the man. It worked; people thanked me for it. I paid for my whole life for a very long time just with those coins. I hid this song away because I didn’t think it was good enough to be released as time went by and I grew up. It took some encouragement to bring it to light again.” (via Genius for Apple Music).
The second half of the album breaks into a series equally experimental ballads with wishful undertones of yearning suitable for the helpless romantic. Through the intricate verses of “Maybe You’ve Changed” and its repeated sentences of realization, Sultana successfully ties a range of emotions from happiness, sadness, being defeated and overcoming failed attempts into a cycle of being distracting the mind and straying from the heart but eventually finding the way back in time to recognize the growth fermented by the seeds of time.
“Knowledge is your wealth if you were hungry/ You don’t need money to be happy/ Now you can just be free,” they sing in the culminating track “I Am Free, ending the piece with themes of enlightenment and maturity. To grow old is to realize what once made you happy has served its purpose and may no longer need to occupy your space. When we step out of the pedestal on which society places every standard that must be met, the energy around our bodies lightens in a way that allows for it effortlessly drift upon a path of bliss and happiness derived from the fulfillment of the self.
Though having evolved from their starting music, Tash Sultana has remained true to a sound that is so uniquely theirs both lyrically and instrumentally. Through a wide range of talent, they abide by no set of rules but their own. Terra Firma is for the delicate, ever-searching ear, for those who inch closer into the comfort of nurturing art and delicately crafted musical narratives.