Before the fights, before whatever thing inevitably throws a relationship off course, there are those moments of bliss, those fleeting instances when it seems like you’re on some faraway planet, lightyears away from your problems. Time moves slower there. You’re lying in bed with your partner, wasting the day away. You feel light, like you’re floating, desperately trying to hold onto this feeling before it inevitably slips away into the back of your brain and gets lost to time.
Tasha remembers these little moments—the color of the sky, that warm August night, the cool lake water—which makes them all the more painful, now that the relationship that once gave her so much joy is ending.
The Chicago-based Tasha’s second album, Tell Me What You Miss the Most, is a wistful and longing record, a deeply romantic collection of songs suddenly absent the relationship that inspired them. Each scene feels as if she took meticulous notes on every cute, minuscule memory throughout her relationship, finally flipping back through those pages of her diary amid the wreckage and begging to relive them once again, as painful as that process may be.
Over arpeggiated acoustic guitar with interwoven strings, Tasha, in her calming soprano croon, sets the heartbroken, nostalgic scene on album opener “Bed Song 1,” singing, “Hey I dare you / Tell me what you miss the most / Is it naps in sandy beds, brown bodies close? / Let’s try once more / Give me one warm August night / In that blue dark we’ll forget to cry and fight.” You can feel her pain in every sigh of the string section, lurking close behind her but never overpowering her voice.
But the breakup narrative only truly fleshes itself out when listening to the record as a whole, becoming clearer with each subsequent track. Second single “Perfect Wife” is an upbeat, joyful track complete with a guitar solo, peppery drums and ‘60s-esque flutes. Tasha smiles throughout its corresponding music video, dancing the whole time. If you only heard “Perfect Wife” as a standalone song, it’d be near impossible to detect the overwhelming sadness lurking underneath.
On its face, the song’s lyrics seem just as happy as the backing instrumentals: “Let’s find some place we can go out and dance / You wear your hair down, I’ll wear my favorite pants / On the floor I’ll be stunned every time / Truth is darling you’re such a perfect wife.” But in the greater context of Tell Me What You Miss the Most, it’s clear that “Perfect Wife” is just a dream, with Tasha imagining and yearning for the matrimonial bliss that’s clearly not in the cards. Or it might represent the sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, she’ll get another chance: “Find myself at your doorstep again and again.”
But that hope is dashed by the next song, “Sorry’s Not Enough,” which sees Tasha full of self-doubt and miles away from the joy of the “Perfect Wife” daydream. “I’ve gone and fooled myself, thinking they’d love me still through all that doubt we felt,” she sings, slipping in and out of a beautiful falsetto over a simple guitar line just before it’s broken up by percussion. It all builds up to a crescendo where, propped up by a choir of her own backing vocals, she tries to convince herself, “I’ll try again in the morning / I’ll be okay with the ending.”
By the spoken-word “Love Interlude,” it’s clear that she needs to do a lot more self-convincing: “She said in another universe, we would be so sweet to each other / But I wondered why it isn’t this universe, the one we’re in now.” Talking over the sounds of waves slowly crashing onto a beach and chimes blowing in the wind, she concludes, “Her wanting was the end and the beginning.”
The second half of Tell Me What You Miss the Most sees Tasha finally start to let those feelings slip away. While she still dreams of the relationship working itself out on “Dream Still”—“We’ll make up, of course we’ll kiss, and you’ll whisper to me, ‘All I need is this’ / And spring will come, so warm at last, and the worst of it all will have surely passed”—she’s more content by “Burton Island,” in which Tasha takes a trip, and despite getting nostalgic once again (“Every lake reminds me of another I’ve swam before”), she admits at the end of the pastoral folk track that she feels “some cool calm I’ve not felt in a while.”
Album highlight “Lake Superior” leans into these memories, as well: “Do you remember that warm fall day?” “Oh I remember the blue of that sky,” “So comes summer and with it this rush for breezes gentle on our cheeks.” The track showcases how far Tasha’s songwriting has come since her 2018 debut LP Alone At Last. Complete with vivid imagery, beautiful string swells and assured vocals, “Lake Superior” feels like a leveling up of sorts, hitting on all cylinders at once. Above all else, even without reading into the lyrics, it evokes the exact feeling Tasha sings about: a melancholic longing for the past, when things were seemingly better than in the present, but probably weren’t.
The whole album builds up to “Year From Now,” a song full of affirmations like “It’s time to let go,” “Look for a sign of life in every breath and every sky” and “A year from now you’ll forget what it felt like / Won’t remember how your body stopped feeling like your own.” It culminates in the most important line of the album—after reliving all the happy but tough memories throughout Tell Me What You Miss the Most, Tasha, with her own backing vocals propping her up, exclaims, “Tasha, you’re brighter than you’ve ever been.”
By album closer “Bed Song 2,” Tasha’s in a much different headspace than—though possibly in the same bed as—she was on “Bed Song 1.” Over a simple acoustic guitar riff, she now accepts the loneliness of being single, even seeing it as a positive. “I’d prefer to sleep in a bed my own / At least for some time ’til I can feel whole,” she sings.
Tell Me What You Miss the Most is intimate, raw and honest throughout, every bit as comforting and beautiful as older Tasha songs like “Something About this Girl” or “New Place,” but they feel fuller and warmer than ever before. Everything about this album is a triumph, pure and simple.
Tasha’s music has always lived in those little early-morning moments, lying alongside a partner, hiding from the outside world. But on Tell Me What You Miss the Most, Tasha proves that even if that partner is no longer there, there’s still a ton of comfort to be found—a reminder that you’re not alone, even if it’s all you can feel at the moment.
Steven Edelstone is the former album reviews editor at Paste and has written for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and more. All he wants is to get a shot and beer combo once this all blows over. You can follow him on Twitter.