By Liam Prost
CALGARY – “Yes You Were” on our minds Elizabeth Powell, despite the seven long years leading up to the release of Life After Youth, the fourth studio release from Land of Talk, released on May 19. The iconic band started as a three piece with Powell at the centre. The guitar fronted rock outfit emerged from Montreal, and produced fuzzy, vocal driven indie rock. Their rise and sonic improvement was quick, moving from their lo-fi debut Applause Cheer Bo, Hiss (2007) to the sprawling and structurally complex Cloak and Cypher (2010) in only three years, sandwiching the perfectly balanced, career defining, Some Are Lakes (2008).
The early style of Land of Talk came from Powell’s Robert Fripp-esque experimentation with strange guitar tunings, a tendency that she describes as coming from her beginnings on bass. Instead of stretching her fingers to make the voicings she wanted, she would tune the strings to bring the notes into reach, making vibrant and canted chords in the process.
This new record finds Land of Talk reaching beyond the guitar, reaching for cleaner, more resonant tones, avoiding classical distortion. The record also reaches further towards synths and other non-traditional rock instrumentation. Ultimately what we get is a patient and layered release, with a respect for what came before, with a completely new perspective.
During the seven-year release gap, Powell moved back to her home of northern Ontario, and spent some time with her father, showing him demos of what at the time was going to become a solo record. Most of the ideas from this period were lost in a computer crash, but some of them were reworked into Life After Youth. Specifically, Powell speaks strongly to the chorus of “This Time,” the lyric “I don’t to waste it, my life” demanding to be repeated, a treatise on the passage of time.
A lot has changed in the seven years Powell has been out of the scene, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been paying attention. Powell notes the greater ubiquity of women making great music, pushing boundaries and lyrically and shredding guitar. In particular, she is excited by artists like Courtney Barnett, an amazing songwriter that Powell sits well beside.
Powell is excited to be back on the road performing the new and old songs with a new ensemble assembled from new and familiar faces as well. Last summer found Land of Talk performing a few of these tracks at the Olympic Plaza stage, backed by a couple members of the Besnard Lakes. The band returns this year with a fresh record and a year of practise.
Land of Talk plays Saturday, June 24 at the King Edward Hotel as part of Sled Island Festival.King Edward Hotel, Land of Talk, Sled Island, Sled Island 2017