Unhealthy relationships almost never start out that way. People fall in love and overlook problems to try to keep the peace. Or they try to solve the deep-seated issues of their lover, when that work can only be done internally. On Make Yourself at Home, her new guitar-driven rock album under the name of Harmony Woods, Sofia Verbilla takes us through this type of relationship, her voice and lyrics diving into the hope, purposeful ignorance, pain and reflection that grows out of it.

In a recent press statement, Verbilla talked about the album’s first half, filled with heady love and overwhelming desire: “It can be easy to keep going back to pursuing a person who you know deep down isn’t good for you, but somehow causes you to have these intense, euphoric rushes.” This feverish devotion is found in “Swing,” a beautiful opener that grows a catchy, circular guitar melody out of droning atmospherics. Verbilla calls for her partner to “Lie in the grass with me/ Tell me all about your dreams.”

But this bliss is undercut in the second tune, the rockier “Best Laid Plans.” Driven by a quaking bass and echoing guitars, it adds complications that start flashing warning signs. Her lover is drinking too much and grimacing just to get through the day, but she still wants them to stick around. Rather than romantic, the tone comes off as an internal struggle over how close to get. “That’s Okay” is a similar, slower number that further outlines the relationship’s unstable footing. “Don’t you think it’s funny how the tables turn/ Retch in the passenger seat/ You live and you learn,” Verbilla sings, sounding more resigned than anything else. “The City’s Our Song” covers similar territory, but the ordinary music and retreaded material keeps holding it back.

“Ghosts,” one of the album’s standout tracks, shows that the romance isn’t just about quiet love or excusing her partner’s problems. The song goes into their shared views, where the inevitability of death is cause for passion here and now, not dreading what’s to come. Musically the chorus rips open into one of the most upbeat sequences on such a heavy subject. It’s made for a crowd to jump around to in a small club, dancing their fears away.

Despite moments of affection, devotion and acceptance, the second half of the album shows why relationships like this can’t last. The status quo is unsustainable. Without real introspection, especially by the one who’s on the edge, something will break.

That’s what happens in a trilogy of songs where the connection between the two of them disintegrates in a haze of shattered glass. On “Burden,” over a bed of chords, Verbilla really feels the weight of her partner’s self-destructive choices. It’s a case of burnout that anyone who’s been in a tough relationship can relate to. At the end, the pressure becomes too much, as she sings, “A bottle hits the wall/ Another trauma I’ll have to unpack/ Your friends all warned me, I recall/ Oh my god, wish I could take it back.”

“Misled” and “Best Laid Plans II” are where the final nails are placed in the coffin of the relationship. On the former, the abusive aspects of the romance boil to the surface. “I can’t feel safe around you/ Not when you’re like this/ Foaming at the mouth/ Hands balled into fists,” Verbilla sings, where terror is all that she can feel anymore with her partner. On “Best Laid Plans II,” with the leftovers of their fight from the last two songs around them, Verbilla sings, “Shards of glass anchored between our feet/ Our heads in our hands, our bodies trembling/ The both of us accepting our defeat.”

While “Sagittarius” touches on the regret and damage of the relationship’s breakdown, it’s “Halt” that finds Verbilla emotionally dealing with the fallout. Part of her is still in love, but she’s resolved to move on. She sings, “The more love I give/ The more I end up feeling like a ghost.” The album ends with not only the resolution of this romance, but with a move towards self-reflection and self-improvement. As guitars scream and blister, Verbilla sings, “Somebody else won’t make me feel at ease/ I had to love myself before you could love me.”

Make Yourself at Home takes one of the more in-depth looks at a failed relationship in recent years. There are no heroes or villains in this story. Verbilla doesn’t wish ill intent on her ex-partner after the end. Instead, the record looks at how one person’s flaws, and their refusal to deal with them healthily, can corrode everything around it. It’s like a car speeding down the highway, accelerator pushed to the floor. The thrill can be intoxicating, but eventually, the car is going to stop. The question is whether it happens because of a crash, or because you hit the brakes.

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