"Be Brave, Earth Heart"

Earth Heart is the creative handle for Boston-based singer/songwriter Katie Coriander who is also responsible for the accompanying artwork. On this cassette/EP (her debut release) and others, she is joined by Matt Axten of The Dying Falls on drums.

The first thing I found striking about this tape was the sound which (most likely) comes from a combination of reverb and the way in which it was recorded at EMF in Cambridge, MA. (I have no idea how it was recorded). From the very beginning of the tape when we hear the sounds of setting up (indecipherable dialogue, fumbling with drumsticks, clearing throat, etc.), you can hear an almost measurable distance between the sources of the sounds on the recording. You can hear the distance between the drums and guitar, the mouth and the microphone, the microphone and the floor, the distance between fingers as they form chords, and the guitar itself sounds as if it is powered solely by its own reverb. This gives the songs a particularly spooky feel, especially for something not recorded in Germany in the mid-80s. It’s remarkable how this cassette takes you inside the room where it was recorded, which if it exists at all, is probably in a haunted house.

This intimate and imminent eeriness is accentuated by Coriander’s voice which inspires a very strange, impossible, and splendidly godless image of Nancy Sinatra taking voice lessons from Conor Oberst. Trembling, neurotic, terrified with a touch of psychosis, but delivered with the command of someone who has been substantially lower than she could have previously imagined, and is aware and over the less conventional qualities of her voice and seems to draw confidence from her own vulnerability. This twice-removed terror is made sweet by the subtle but sharp undercurrents of 50s/60s pop in increasingly noticeable as the tape plays on.

Listening closely to the lyrics, you might notice a pattern occurring in Coriander’s storytelling where she seems to pile layers of literal imagery and expression, describing something deeper without ever conceding that there’s anything there at all. The third song, “Mario Brother”, (in addition to showing off some raunchy guitaring) frantically spits an inner-monologue about playing Mario Brothers with her little brother. It is not gimmicky enough to be a song about a video game but not sentimental enough to be a song about a sibling relationship either.

On a similar and possibly directly related note, you sometimes catch a line that might seem a little on-the-nose and takes you out of the moment. However, it is generally accepted by even the most discriminating critics that great songwriters will sometimes use clichés, or what might be interpreted as lazy-imagery, either as filler or because it is truly the most appropriate way of expressing A Thing. We forgive the songwriter when they show that they have other tricks up their sleeves. In this case, Coriander rewards us handsomely. Towards the end of the second song “Frankie Danger” (one of the best on the tape and obviously about some stage of an unwanted pregnancy), she repeats the opening and initially off-putting line “Table for two, even though we’re really dining for three”. But just a single line later we hear “But when tomorrow comes, when it cums (sp?) inside me”, turning-a-phrase so sharply into in offbeat expression of sexuality gone awry that it’s almost captivating.

She empties her sleeves again on the last (and other best) song on the tape, “Fire Song”. The first verse describes a dream in which she buries herself alive then shoots herself upon completion for reasons simultaneously convoluted and completely logical, and which turns out to be a pretty potent combination as dichotomies go. She does one-better in the first chorus (/bridge?) with the somewhat contrived hook (albeit a perfectly executed melody) “I’ve been feeling like something’s been missing for a long, time, now” but she makes the would-be cliché her own in the next line, “And I’m pretty sure I can smell a burning dumpster”.

It’s hard not to be charmed by the dark yet humdrum place that these songs seem to come from – much like the way we consistently (and sometimes reluctantly) tip our hats to anagrams and quips that inadvertently imply negative expectations. You probably wouldn’t want to go to this place, but maybe have a friend pick up something from the gift shop if they’re in the neighborhood, and this tape beats the shit out of a postcard.

This EP is available for free download. Check it out here, along with other releases from Earth Heart::

--Travis Long