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Over Land, Over Sea

by Ellery

Ellery, the newly Louisville-based duo Tasha Golden and Justin Golden,  returns with Over Land, Over Sea: a five-song collection produced and mixed by Justin Golden, recorded at Louisville’s La La Land studio, featuring cellist Ben Sollee and bassist Jennifer Condos (Ray LaMontagne, Joe Henry), among others. The album harks to the indie lush-pop Ellery is known for, but “Over Land, Over Sea” is a definitively new effort—richly layered and provocative. “Sleep Well Goodnight” is deceptively sweet, hinting at revenge, and “Tennessee Whiskey (Hallelujah)” sets violent family histories against an eerily non-redemptive “Hallelujah.” “We’ve been connecting with a new hometown,” songwriter/vocalist Tasha Golden says, “and with who we are now as people and artists. There’s been a lot of identification and disidentification, and these songs get at that. It’s reconciliation and rejection, a kind of reckoning.”

Indeed, a lot has changed for Ellery since 2010, when the band released its previous record, produced by Grammy-winner Malcolm Burn. That year, Tasha had a bout of severe depression that led the band off the road and into new work as artists. In 2012, she began running trauma-informed writing workshops for incarcerated girls—exploring how poetry and songs can break silences and amplify girls’ voices. The bravery of those young writers inspired Tasha to publish her own book of revealing poems, Once You Had Hands (Humanist Press), in 2015. The book is a result of “pushing beyond what I thought I was ‘allowed’ to write about”—a practice that altered Tasha’s songwriting, too. “ The songs ’Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Sleep Well’ definitely wouldn’t exist without Once You Had Hands,” she notes.

Tasha is now a doctoral student in public health at the University of Louisville, which isn’t the departure it may seem: “For years we’d performed songs about domestic violence or mental illness,” she notes. “And all over the world, people came up afterwards wanting to talk about those things. The songs made stigmatized issues talkaboutable. I’ve always wondered, what are the health implications of that? Of creating openings for difficult conversations? That’s what I research.” 

For a few years, Justin worked as project manager on the team (Lightborne, Cincinnati) that made tour visuals for Kanye West, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry. Since 2015, he’s been in music production and audio engineering full-time, often touring with the Cincinnati-based band Over the Rhine to mix live sound. He’s also composed music and sound for Adult Swim, Scotch & Soda, McLaren, EMP Museum, and more.

Recording “Over Land, Over Sea” meant exploring what “Ellery” is now—which wasn’t always easy. But Justin took the helm: arranging, producing, and mixing. He traveled to musicians, recorded between his other projects, and snagged studio hours when Tasha could get away from her studies. But their non-Ellery pursuits are important writing influences, so the fact that “Over Land, Over Sea” took shape in and around those influences seemed fitting. It also generated artistic freedom: “We’d always operated from a lot of ‘shoulds’ as Ellery,” Tasha notes. “But recording this in the midst of everything else helped shake that out of us. This time it was more just, What does this need to say? What do we want this to be?” 

The answer is an offering of long-awaited new music. The album features “loud louds and quiet quiets,” radio-friendly melodic hooks, haunting lines, and dreamy, unexpected turns.