|Land Of Talk||Life After Youth|
Land Of Talk — Life After Youth (May 19th, 2017)•♠• Land of Talk is singer~songwriter/ guitarist, Elizabeth Powell. To paraphrase the late David Bowie, it’s been seven years, and Elizabeth’s brain hurt a lot. But she stands today as the patient~zero case study for Life After Youth’s therapeutic powers. These are the songs that got her through the tough times. And now, they can do the same for you. Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Album release: May 19th, 2017
Record Label: Saddle Creek
01. Yes You Were 2:43
02. This Time 5:48
03. Loving 3:49
04. What Was I Thinking? 2:32
05. Spiritual Intimidation 3:48
06. Heartcore 3:54
07. Inner Lover 5:23
08. World Made 3:11
09. In Florida 2:59
10. Macabre 4:47
℗ 2017 Saddle Creek
By Nina Mashurova, MAY 18 2017; Score: 7.0
•• After a seven year pause, Elizabeth Powell’s new album as Land of Talk still sounds like a direct line to her consciousness, full of unpredictable songwriting twists and poetically opaque lyrics.
•• Thhere was a moment shortly after Montreal’s Land of Talk released their last album, 2010’s Cloak and Cipher, when the band’s longevity seemed quietly clear. As the Canadian indie pop boom hit its zenith and receded, something about Land of Talk sounded timeless. Never as bombastic as Arcade Fire or as saccharine as Stars, Land of Talk were more straightforward. Even with Cipher pulling guests from the who’s who of Montreal indie, and Justin Vernon producer credits on 2008’s Some Are Lakes, Land of Talk always managed to sound like a direct line to Elizabeth Powell’s consciousness, like the best~kept~secret of your local basement scene. Seven years later, Powell is back with Life After Youth — a solid, consistent return that sounds like the band never left.
•• Music, or at least a music career, is often said to be a young person’s game — an economy that relies heavily on a college demographic, touring schedules that take their toll on the mind and body, and a lack of economic stability. This all accumulated for Powell. And after a devastating computer crash destroyed the bulk of her post~Cipher material, her father suffered a stroke, leading Powell to put music on pause and prioritize being his caretaker. Life After Youth, then, could also be called Music After the Grind — Powell coming back to music as a healing and sustaining practice, for both herself and her father. “This Time” has Powell announcing her return: “I don’t want to waste it this time/And see fate as the end of me.”
•• In true Land of Talk form, that’s about as overt as Powell gets. Snapshots of longing manifest throughout the album: “Yes you were on my mind/Done a lot of distance/I can’t leave you behind,” Powell sings on “Yes You Were;” “The wind undoes me/Pulls me past/The way you hold me/Brings me back,” goes the tender “Inner Lover.” Otherwise, the lyrics stay poetically opaque, generating meaning in how phrases sit together, like how the emotional crux of “Inner Lover” rests in the refrain “You light it slowly/Your light is lonely.”
•• One of Powell’s biggest songwriting strengths has been its unpredictability. As soon as you think you know where a song is going, it turns and drops you into fresh emotional territory; the fragments part and leave you on a plaintive, gutting line. (This approach is currently best practiced by Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan.) Life After Youth uses some conventional song structures, but it contains choice breakaways. “World Made” interjects stops and starts into an otherwise steadily chugging tempo; “Yes You Were” hits the gas pedal with a visceral restlessness. “Spiritual Intimidation” starts mellow, accelerates on an early bridge and drives right off, catching air in a freefall of whirling synths.
•• For the most part, though, Life After Youth feels like Land of Talk’s most muted release, built from synth parts and programmed loops rather than guitar. Drums are sparse, even on the louder rock songs, and the production never lets the raw parts land quite right. There’s a brashness that’s missing, replaced with the tenderness that comes with gingerly stepping back into something wounded. Late~2000s Canadian indie pop was never one to throw the brick (except maybe for Metric), but Land of Talk always had something of an uprising within it, smuggling in jabs at the music industry and gender.
•• Youth is instead concerned with an inwardness, peppered with reassurances that could be directed to Powell’s longing fans, the people in her care, or Powell herself. On the gentle closer “Macabre,” she launches into a singsong verse: “If it wasn’t for this life I would leave it/But oh I’d miss the sky and the sea.” As the old cliches would have it, we’re always the oldest we’ve ever been — but there is in fact life after youth, so long as you make a little space for healing. •• http://pitchfork.com/ Also:
By Steven Edelstone | May 17, 2017 | 11:38am | Score: 8.6
•• With almost every track featuring very direct first person, Life After Youth is an extremely personal collection from Powell, but with some help from her friends and collaborators Sharon Van Etten, The Besnard Lakes, Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and Sal Maida (Roxy Music/Sparks), she has not only made the best record of her career, it’s also one of the strongest solo releases from any past or present Broken Social Scene members. Powell, now in her late thirties, may not be the same young musician that captured our hearts in 2008 with her Justin Vernon~produced debut, but she’s much wiser and more clever now, ensuring that she uses every bit of her ten new tracks to make up for lost time. While her voice retreats into an exposed and wavering falsetto at times throughout Life After Youth, she’s deadly confident when she sings, “I don’t want to waste it this time.” She definitely didn’t. (excerpt)
•♠• Life After Youth is the first Land of Talk album since 2010’s Cloak and Cipher. After taking a few months off after Cloak and Cipher’s touring cycle, frontwoman Elizabeth Powell got back to work on a followup. Instead, a series of mishaps — post~tour fatigue, a crashed hard drive with new demos, and her father’s stroke in 2013 — turned “a few months” into “a few years”.
•♠• While caring for her father, Elizabeth fell under the spell of classical, ambient, and Japanese tonkori music, whose meditative quality aided his recovery. Immersing herself in those sounds would change her entire approach to music making; she started writing songs without her trusty guitar, instead building tracks up from synth beds and programmed loops.
•♠• Life After Youth’s centerpiece track, “Inner Lover,” presents the most radical results of those experiments. It’s an audio Rorschach test of a song: key in on the incessant synth pulse underpinning Elizabeth’s pleading vocal (“take care of me!”) and the track assumes an ominous intensity. But when you surrender to the relaxed drum counter~rhythm and subliminal harmonies, “Inner Lover” projects a graceful serenity.
•♠• Even the songs built atop more traditional rock foundations exist in that liminal space between dreaming and waking life, confidence and doubt, raw feelings and soothing sounds. “Yes You Were” opens the record with a cold~start surge that’s overwhelming in its immediacy, with Elizabeth’s furiously strummed guitar jangle and wistful lyricism bearing all the adrenalized excitement and nervous energy of seeing old friends (or, in her case, fans) for the first time in ages. And as its title suggests, “Heartcore” is a collision of soft~focus sonics and emotional intensity, with Elizabeth’s crystalline vocals hovering above a taut, relentless backbeat and disorienting synth squiggles. Even the turn~a~new~leaf optimism of “This Time” is presented less as a triumphant comeback statement than a warm reassuring embrace — its beautifully dazed ‘n’ confused psych~pop swirl acts as a calming force as you hurtle toward life’s great unknown.
•♠• Fitting for a song about reconnecting with the world, “This Time” was the product of another fortuitous reunion — between Elizabeth and her old friend Sharon Van Etten, who lent her songwriting smarts and heavenly harmonies to that track, as well as “Heartcore” and the Fleetwood Mac~worthy “Loving.” And Van Etten is just one member of a veritable indie~rock dream team Elizabeth recruited to complete the album: the moonlit ballad “In Florida” was recorded by producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) in his New Jersey studio, with Elizabeth backed by former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Roxy Music/Sparks bassist Sal Maida.
•♠• To paraphrase the late David Bowie, it’s been seven years, and Elizabeth’s brain hurt a lot. But she stands today as the patient~zero case study for Life After Youth’s therapeutic powers. These are the songs that got her through the tough times. And now, they can do the same for you.
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By Matt Perloff
|Land Of Talk||Life After Youth|