Powell returns to lead land of rock

Fuelled by a new album and energy, Land of Talk are back touring Canada with D’Urbervilles and Broken Social Scene

Liz Powell as Land of Talk is back with the upcoming full-length Some Are Lakes on Saddle Creek Records that boasts more maturity in sound and lyrics.
Liz Powell as Land of Talk is back with the upcoming full-length Some Are Lakes on Saddle Creek Records that boasts more maturity in sound and lyrics.
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Land of Talk—guitarist and singer Liz Powell’s band with a rotating drums and bass section—released the EP Applause cheer boo hiss, to much fanfare and critical praise three years ago only to appear to drop off the radar. It’s only now with her full-length album Some Are Lakes, put out by Saddle Creek Records and set to release on Oct. 7, that Land of Talk seem to be back and on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Powell was around during that time and working her guts out, touring for Applause cheer boo hiss’s staggered release dates in the US, UK and Europe. During that drawn-out EP tour, Powell lived in a van—not exactly ideal conditions for recording—and performed Applause to death.

Fragments of Applause are alive and well on Some Are Lakes but the new album was worth the wait for Powell’s schedule to slow down. Powell’s signature bare-bones guitar work and nonchalant yet plaintive voice are still there, but the better production quality brings them to the forefront, not letting Powell’s voice get lost in the fuzzy grunge-like mesh of drums, bass and guitar. Powell also exercises more of a technical and emotional range, something lacking on the EP, writing a more frank disc that extends from sad and nostalgic to energetic and urgent.

“Applause, cheer boo hiss had a bit more of an angst-ridden tone. This is definitely more peaceful, coming to terms with certain things. Whether that be lyrically or song-writing wise and interpretation, I think this album has a lot of rawness and lot of virility,” Powell said.

“There’s definitely a softer side and softer tracks altogether—a little bit more sentimental I’d say and a little less cryptic.

“As opposed to boo hiss which sounds like four-track demo tape.”

The maturity and polish may have also had something to do with the band taking the time to prepare and 19 days to record Some Are Lakes, whereas Applause was recorded in three days, live off the floor. Many of Applause’s lyrics and music were improvised.

On Some Are Lakes Powell puts herself out there more, mumbling a little less and allowing her voice to ring out by not doubling her vocal track. You can actually make out most of the lyrics not just on the slower lament “It’s Okay” but aslo on the faster-paced title track and “Young Bridge.” On “Troubled,” the mumbling melancholy makes a comeback and you have to strain to hear when Powell switches to singing in French.

But overall, Powell is less obscured and comes across as more vulnerable yet in charge, recalling a strength championed by that other Liz (Phair) on Exile in Guyville.

“This album is more about the listener and less about my own insecurity. It was uncomfortable, and I had to step out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“It was terrifying but I think it translated well.”

Powell admits the 19 days may have been too much time because, as a self-professed procrastinator, Powell said it all came down to the last minute anyway. It’s this attitude, Powell said, that contributed to her dropping out of Concordia’s music program.

“I was taking jazz, vocal and theory. It was the last thing I should have been studying. I have a pretty untrained, non-technical approach to music. It kind of clashed with Concordia’s teaching,” she said.

“I got frustrated and on top of it I was young and didn’t show up to class. But when I did I was a genius—just kidding.”

Powell moved from the snug basement rock scene in Guelph to the vibrant music scene in Montreal, and both cities seem to have come together to inspire and spark in Powell a desire to make music on her own terms.

“I think back to my reference point of exhilarating passionate performances and I think back to the bands I would see in basement shows and Fugazi and all those hardcore bands. I want to make that music that totally got me jazzed when I was younger,” she said.

According to Powell, her career in music just sort of happened, but it seems to be happening well. Land of Talk are enjoying an upward swing as their upcoming tour in the US and Canada will see Land of Talk play with the D’Urbervilles and Broken Social Scene.

“I actually haven’t been this excited to go on tour since the first time.”

“I’ve been really anti-touring for the whole summer. Now I’m definitely ready to go.”

Powell’s unadulterated enthusiasm and frankness along with her new candid album are kind of refreshing.

“I hope that when people walk away from the album or shows it’s nothing but the songs. There are so many distractions from the task at hand in the music industry,” she said. “I just want to be an artist. Hopefully I’ll be around for a while and keep writing albums that speak to people on some level other than superficial pop songs—even though there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Land of Talk play with D’Urbervilles tomorrow night at the Grad Club. Tickets are $10.

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