Land of Talk
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Elizabeth Powell, the lead singer of this three-piece Montreal indie-rock band, sounds
marvelously self-assured on “Some Are Lakes� (Saddle Creek), its reverberant full-length
debut. Her voice is alluring but firm, with just barely enough vulnerability to carry off a
pledge like “I’ll love you like I love you/Then I’ll die,� which appears in the title track.
She’s an equally strong guitarist, committed to the hazy-beautiful school of distortion but
not averse to the odd brickbat riff. And where Land of Talk’s breakout EP, “Applause
Cheer Boo Hiss,� sounded a bit overheated at times, “Some Are Lakes� conveys a
rewardingly lived-in feeling.
Some tracks, like “Death by Fire,� reveal a stylistic debt to Broken Social Scene, the
Toronto collective with which Ms. Powell regularly consorts (and for which Land of Talk
will open on Friday at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, in a sold-out show). But the album,
which was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, casts its own illumination, intense yet
rarely harsh. - New York Times



It's taken relentless touring – and three different line-ups – but
the Canadian trio Land of Talk are finally getting heard. Lead
singer Elizabeth Powell shares all with Fiona Sturges
Published: 26 December 2007
"There have been times when I've felt a long way from home, and close to the edge. But then something good happens. You
play a great show or write a good lyric, and you think to yourself, 'OK, this is why I'm here. Let's do this'."
Elizabeth Powell, the 27-year-old singer and driving force behind the Canadian indie-rock trio Land of Talk, is recalling the
occasions when she has considered abandoning her career. Life can certainly be tough in a fledgling band, with the endless
touring, the separation from loved ones, and the uncertainty of whether any of it will pay off. Lucky for Land of Talk, then, that
they are finally starting to get the appreciation they deserve. Their debut EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, was released to
widespread acclaim last month, while word is gradually getting around about their incendiary live shows.
According to fans, the main reference points for Land of Talk are Cat Power and PJ Harvey, although recent comparisons to
indie hipsters du jour Rilo Kiley seem closer to the mark. Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, described by one critic as "a seven-song
punch to the gut", is a work of rare assurance, combining muscular college rock with stripped-down indie pop. Powell comes
with a distinctive voice that can veer from an enraged wail to a melancholic murmur in the blink of an eye.
In the flesh, Powell is similarly charismatic – at once determined and thoughtful, and fiercely protective of her craft. She grew
up in Guelph, Ontario, the daughter of a liberal mother who has the distinction of being North America's first female alligator
wrestler, though she now works as a psycho-geriatric consultant. "She just had this placating technique with alligators that
turned into a bit of a sideshow," explains Powell. "She just tickled its belly and it went to sleep. It wasn't like she was in the ring
in a bikini, wrestling it to the floor!"
It was with a similar fearlessness that Powell took her first steps towards a musical career at just four years old, learning the
violin after hearing the violinist Stéphane Grappelli on the radio, though later ditching it at high school in favour of the
considerably cooler bass guitar.
On leaving school, Powell moved to Montreal to study music at Concordia University. "I hated it. They made me do all these
theory courses when I had already learnt about music on my own terms. At that stage, I was too old to have any patience with
it. For a while, I moved into sound engineering, but then just dropped out altogether."
At the same time, Powell was playing the Montreal circuit as a solo artist, but she struggled to stand out amid the swathes of
"coffee-house girls with guitars". Salvation arrived in 2004 in the form of a drummer, Bucky Wheaton, who had seen Powell
perform and was looking to start a band. The pair bonded instantly over their admiration for Fugazi, Nirvana, Ben Folds and
Weezer. They were joined by the bass player Blake Barkell to form Land of Talk, and almost immediately headed out on tour,
stopping only to make their debut EP on a meagre $1,000 budget. "I would arrive in the studio with what sounded like a folk
song, and then Bucky and Blake would put their mark on it. We would have two or three, or even four, versions of each song
and we would eventually settle on one that worked. It would be a chemical mixture of everything."
Land of Talk relied on word of mouth and relentless touring across Canada and the United States to build an audience.
Bloggers went into overdrive singing the praises of this new Montreal band. Early in 2006, the band finally signed a contract
with the small label Maple Music, and, a few months later, with One Little Indian in Europe. "I've been blessed with the best - The Independent - London, UK


Land Of Talk Have Mad Hook-Ups

Land Of Talk might only be releasing their full-length debut, Some Are Lakes, in
October, but they're no strangers to the music industry. The Montreal trio were on the
road for a solid two years following the release of their Applause Cheer Boo Hiss EP, and
have recently signed to Saddle Creek to release their debut in the States. But
vocalist/guitarist Liz Powell's connections go back to her teens. ChartAttack spoke to
Powell over the phone from her home in Montreal about touring and her single degree of
separation from Tapes 'N Tapes, Patrick Watson and Broken Social Scene.
ChartAttack: You recently capped off touring in support of your 2006 EP, Applause
Cheer Boo Hiss, with a European tour opening for Tapes 'N Tapes. What was it like
touring with them?
Liz Powell: It was awesome! Those guys are awesome. You can't always choose who
you're touring with, who you're opening for or who your supporting band is. But we had a
mutual friend who does sound for us. Our sound guy Drew also does sound for them, and
I think he just kept putting the idea out there. We have really cool T-shirts, and I think he
used to wear the Land Of Talk T-shirt all the time when he was touring with Tapes 'N
Tapes, and that's probably how the conversation started, like, "Whoa, that's a neat Tshirt!"
I think Drew did the rest by always talking about us or calling us when he was on
tour with them. I think that's how it worked out. It had nothing to do with Land Of Talk.
It ended up being an awesome tour. It was pretty brief, only being about two weeks, but
they were great. I would love to tour with them again.
You're about to head out on the road again for a U.S. tour with Broken Social
Scene. How did you hook that one up?
I think when I was around 15, I was dating a musician who was playing in By Divine
Right, and Brendan Canning was the bass player in By Divine Right. And back then,
Brendan was also known as DJ Champ and I think he used to DJ at Gypsy Co-op, this
little club in Toronto. I remember my mom would drive me down to Toronto with my
little overnight bag and drop me off at Brendan's place, and we would do maybe an hour
of work, like I would just record some house tracks, like (starts singing) "Oooo baby, I've
got my reasons," like really bad — no sorry, I mean, really awesome shit. And he would
put the vocals to his house music, and anyway, our friendship blossomed and ever since
then, he's always looked out for me. He always sort of asks me what's going on and he's
always supported me.
Once I started Land Of Talk, he loved the album, and then we worked on The Tracey
Fragments soundtrack together and I did that Patti Smith cover [of "Land"] and another
two songs, and then we just bumped into each other in Montreal and he said, "Oh, I'm
about to record some songs for my new album. Come on up." So then I recorded on his
solo album, and then I started hearing about The Tracey Fragments doing well, and his
album, and I said, "Hey, if you ever need an opener, I would love to!" I think the subject
heading [of the email] was "My band wants to open for your band," and he immediately
wrote back and said, "Of course!" I definitely was instrumental in that hook-up, but that
hook-up took about 13 years. We had to nurture that one.
I also noticed that you helped out on the last Karkwa album.
Yes, I did! You know Karkwa? I love Karkwa!
How did that collaboration come about?
I am good friends with Patrick Watson, and I sang on his album, and we were always sort
of hanging out in the same circles, and I think Patrick Watson and Karkwa are so close
that they went on a tour and billed it as… They did like a "Brangelina" thing. They called
it Karkwatson, so they were all touring together like some morphed two-headed monster.
I think we would always end up at Karkwa shows backstage and I was completely blown
away by their set. And Louis-Jean [Cormier, Karkwa's guitarist/vocalist] emailed me one
day and I immediately dropped everything so I could record that track because I love
them. Plain and simple.
So you're pretty connected, hey?
I guess. I guess that's what happens... As much as I play guitar, and that's sort of my main
instrument, there's never a shortage of guitar players in bands or session guitar players.
But people I guess are always looking for a female vocalist to lend their higher range, so I
think sometimes once you get on one person's album, you're just part of this sort of
[snowball effect], like, "Oh, you sang on Patrick Watson's album, why don’t you sing on
mine?" But yeah, I guess I am connected, just by hanging out at the same bars and
playing at the same shows. - Chart Attack



It was just about a year ago that we had Andrew WK run around CMJ as our expert party correspondent. The night before we filmed I was awed by relative newcomer Bon Iver at Bowery, and hours later I was awed by seeing him bounce around the LES with Lizzie Powell of Class of '06 BTW Land Of Talk. She mentioned then the pair were "working on something."
Then she and Justin told Andrew about their idea of a party ("renting
go-carts"). A few months later, the "something" Lizzie spoke of revealed itself via MySpace blog post, confirming Vernon was producing the long awaited
follow-up to LoT's buzzy debut EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. In the time since the band parted ways with their great drummer Bucky Wheaton (now getting kit work from the Slip's Andrew Barr), and finished recording the nine tracks in Montreal and one at Bon Iver's parents' place in Eau Claire, WI
which fill out Some Are Lakes. It's the title track we get to sample today, which starts with Lizzie's open-string chord voicings and "at a summer lake," some dissonance in the hook, and some low-mixed background vocals in the bridge. It's Applause-y, but you'll find some new folds at the corners.
Land Of Talk - "Some Are Lakes" (MP3) Some Are Lakes is out 10/7 via Saddle Creek. Pre-order it here and have it shipped 9/23. A look at the tracklist confirms the LP will include "Young Bridge," which you can still hear here. Some tourdates (a bunch with BSS) and an album cover for you to stare at:
09/11 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
09/13 - Quebec City, PQ @ Envol & Macadam Festival#
09/18 - Ottawa, ON @ Zaphod's
09/19 - Montreal, PQ @ La Sala Rosa
09/20 - Kingston, ON @ The Grad Club
09/22 - Laval, PQ @ CEJEP
09/23 - Sherbrooke, PQ @ Telephone Rouge
09/24 - Peterborough, ON @ Montreal House
09/25 - Guelph, ON @ E Bar
09/26 - Hamilton, ON @ Casbah
09/27 - Toronto, ON @ Sneaky Dee's - Stereogum


2. Land of Talk, Some Are Lakes (Oct. 7)
Their debut EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, garnered plenty of attention--and a No. 1 CBC Radio 3 single -- when it
came out way back in 2006. The trio is finally releasing a full-length album which they reportedly recorded in a
church on the outskirts of Montreal. - Hear a few samples of their new material at myspace.com/landoftalkmtl. - National Post


Some are lakes
Dave Jaffer
Montreal's Land Of Talk discover their soft side
In 2006, Montreal's Land Of Talk released an EP
called Applause Cheer Boo Hiss to pretty critical
acclaim. With their first full -length release, Some
Are Lakes, set to drop in early October,
audiences will have the chance to applaud,
cheer, boo or hiss - though the band's probably
only hoping for those first two - all over again.
"In my mind, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss was our
first full-length," says LOT vocalist/guitarist Liz
Powell. "I didn't know an EP [could be] seven
songs. I thought an EP was, like, three songs."
It's hard to believe that a band armed with so
few established tunes could tour for two years,
but that's precisely what Land Of Talk has done.
The hardworking trio have hit pretty much
everywhere worth hitting in North America, and,
since September 2007, they've toured "the U.K.
and Europe pretty extensively and almost
without break." To a certain extent, this
hamstrung the conceptualization and creation of
Some Are Lakes, a record that differs sharply
from its predecessor.
"It was very difficult to find time when we were off the road to [write] the songs, demo them and then
start testing them out live," says Powell. "A lot of these songs took shape just in our sound checks and
our live performances. Some of the quieter, softer songs I pulled out of my back pocket from songs I had
written years ago that I never felt could translate, or could be Land Of Talk songs."
This change in Powell's attitude was gradual, and influenced by the "hard-hitting, guitar-heavy,
'boombastic'" qualities of Applause. More
specifically, though, the softer, more thoughtful
and mature aspects of Lakes was also
representative of a group of artists cobbling
together a way to find various kinds of balance
while more or less growing up on the road.
"We were kind of coming off playing loud, fast
shows and I think that I just thought that 'Oh,
there is room for a softer side of Land Of Talk,'"
says Powell. "This is sort of the challenge -
trying to balance being in the moment and
playing your live shows and keeping yourself
healthy while being on the road, which is a task in itself, and then also trying to nurture new create and diffuse all the new ideas while also
keeping the old ideas fresh for the audience
too." - Ottawa Xpress


The Band: Land of Talk
The Buzz: Canadian trio evolve past the jagged noise of their debut EP in favour of subversive melodies, all with foxy Elizabeth Powell at the helm
Listen If: Sonic Youth is your favorite band and poutine is your favorite late night snack
Key Track: "Death By Fire", the prettiest little doomsday anthem you've ever heard - Rolling Stone


Concert review: Broken Social Scene, Friday, Oct. 31 at Metropolis
"Before you go and get lost in the evening, get lost here tonight," said Broken Social Scene's
de facto leader Kevin Drew, offering an apt description of the concert his band would give
on this Hallowe'en at Metropolis. It was the last show on the Toronto indie-rock collective's
tour, as we were told several times, and things were loose – a tad too loose. Broken Social
Scene has always been about the mess, and the surprising moments of beauty amid the
swelling rush of guitars and horns. This night was no different, except that it all sounded a
little more tired. Almost every Broken Social Scene song sounds exactly the same. If
anything, the band has gotten more obtuse over the past seven years. It's fusion of
disaffected poetry and soaring, hazy rock soundscapes melded most succinctly on 2002's
You Forgot It In People. By 2005's self-titled effort, the noise took over, and the plot was
harder to find.
There was renewal of sorts over the last 12 months, as both Drew and bassist/co-founder
Brendan Canning released solo albums under the "Broken Social Scene Presents..." banner –
with songwriting returning once again to the fore. These disparate segments of the band's
history were cobbled together on the Metropolis stage, just three months after the group
played Osheaga. (The room was only about two-thirds full, perhaps a reflection of BSS
overload.)
Of note, Montreal's Elizabeth Powell – whose band Land of Talk won fans over in the
opening slot – brought welcome life to the proceedings via her contributions as the lone
female vocalist in the BSS crew, singing parts belonging to the likes of Feist and Emily
Haines on record. Drew got things started, shouting out his parts to his tenderly titled Gang
Bang Suicide, early on, before Canning took over for his own solo track, Churches Under
the Stairs. Both were soon eclipsed by Powell, who provided a highlight with 7/4 Shoreline.
The crowd cheered for her fluttering voice, to which she responded giddily, jumping about
the stage and clapping during the surging instrumental breakdown. But she was used too
sparingly. Even her contribution of background vocals, and the playful energy with which
she sprinted from her microphone at centre-stage to the percussion section at the back (to
pick up a cowbell or other rhythm instrument) was refreshing, not to mention her costume: a
goofy silver space suit type-thing with Hawaiian bikini overtop. It made this more than just a
boys-club jam-band.
The boys did have their moments. Farewell to the Pressure Kids, another Drew number,
strayed from formula with an African-influenced bridge. Charles Spearing, of Toronto postrock
act Do Make Say Think, provided diversion by getting saxophonist Leon Kingstone to
play a musical rendition of the cadence of a recording of his neighbour's voice, talking about
what makes her happy. And Cause = Time carried anthemic weight. (Plus the great line,
"We all want to f--k the cause.") But it was Powell who again brought the crowd to life with her dreamy cooing on old favourite Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl.
Drew finally elicited an even bigger reaction – by asking for it directly. Introducing what he
called a bit of "therapy," he requested that everyone in the audience scream at the top of
their lungs, unleashing any pent-up frustrations. When they did, on the count of three,
something cool happened. What began as a group howl turned into a cheer. The horns joined
in, along with the rest of the band, and from the cacaphony came a wave of celebration. If
only Broken Social Scene could have focused its own sound to manage that feat a little more
often, this show might have really taken off. - Montreal Gazette



This Montreal group's full-length features a slightly brighter, looser sound than their wonderfully sludgy 2006, perhaps due to the input of Justin Vernon (a.k.a. folkie marvel Bon Iver), who coproduced with the band. Regardless, the spotlight stays on charismatic Elizabeth Powell, who grinds out chunky guitar noise as she attacks the mic with a slow-burn drawl that suggests Lucinda Williams fronting a power trio. On jagged tracks like "Death By Fire", Powell's voice is submerged in the mix to increase tension, creating the disorienting urgency of a slow-motion nighmare. - Spin


Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, introduced a Montreal trio who can do hard music with a
thrilling compositional exactitude. The sound was unruly and sometimes smushed
together, yet recalled precise aural architects of the past (Siouxsie and the Banshees,
Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine) who also superbly conveyed emotional distress.
Some Are Lakes proves those associations no fluke. With 10 varied yet consistent
songs, it introduces fully something the EP didn't: the wide range of talents available to
bandleader Elizabeth Powell, who writes and sings expertly about doubt, miserable
days, cons, and death.
As with bassist Chris McCarron and drummer Andrew Barr, a rhythm section who
contour and accent her music just right, every sentiment Powell expresses contributes to
one continuous motion: the slanted rhythms and lovely choral backgrounds of "The Man
Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)," the striking enervation of "Corner Phone," the tricky
melodicism of "Death by Fire," even the rustic folk-rock structures of "Troubled" and the
gripping title song. Like her game soprano, which breaks apart with the same lucid
strength it sometimes uses to soar with trepidation, Land of Talk's music unleashes its
own aggressive logic. Powell is no mere singer-songwriter dressing herself up in rocktrio
clichés: She really seems to think, feel, sleep, and reason in the language of rock 'n'
roll. In "Got a Call," she answers her phone in the middle of the night, triggering a
considered string of lovelorn thoughts and sharply shaped guitar notes. For Land of Talk,
a dial tone and a groove aren't categorically different things. - Village Voice


Discography

EP - Applause Cheer Boo Hiss (2006)
radio: summer special, speak to me bones, all my friends
LP - Some Are Lakes (2008)
radio: Some Are Lakes, The Man Who Breaks Things (dark shuffle)

Photos

Bio

After more than two years of touring for their debut release, and having gained and lost a few members, Land of Talk retired to their hometown of Montreal to roll tape on a batch of new songs. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Elizabeth Powell set about making an album that could encompass a great deal with very little, an aesthetic in stark contrast to the orchestral pop and digi-tweaked indie chic. With bassist Chris McCarron and drummer Andrew Barr (The Slip), the band set up in an old converted church outside of Montreal and recorded 9 songs with the helping hands of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). The tenth and final track “Troubled� was recorded in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at Vernon’s parents’ home.

Land of Talk isn’t so banal as to pretend that a new album is a departure, or a disconnected effort from the last. There’s a longer narrative at work here and this isn’t some paint-by-numbers pop. It’s simply a continuation of the internal conversation Powell has been holding with herself since she began this musical lark, more than a decade ago, with a 14 year-old’s creaky-voiced acuteness, spouting the uncomfortable truths of a woman thrice her years and many times more guarded.

The album opener, “Yuppy Flu�, and the two songs that follow, “Death By Fire� and “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)�, are stealthy nods to Land of Talk’s much ballyhooed debut EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. Powell is as unrelenting in her appraisal of the world as she’s ever been, and it’s a world as pitiably venal as it is lovingly rendered. These songs might easily have sat in tandem with the urgent rawness of the EP tracks but with Powell’s sense of story and Vernon’s fresh perspective, they find better use on the new album. Here they set a perfect bridge from the jangling dissonance and ferocious doubled voicings of the debut, towards the road-weathered clarity and reflectiveness she has now begun to own so fully–a narrative string from there, to here, and beyond. When the titular track hits four songs in, it’s clear why “Some Are Lakes� is the album’s anthem call, as much a nostalgic tramp through summers past and love unending as a backhand ode to the very album it appears on. It’s a statement of intent with a sea change at its heart.

“It started at a summer lake / a sentence and a name / If only for a moment’s sake/ We called it and it came� Powell sings. The fierce spotlight of Powell’s attention points inward and has begun exposing a more private side of the nascent iconoclast. There’s nothing fragile in it. The honesty makes it steel. That in itself is a kind wonder. Where once one might have questioned whether Powell was shielding herself under the gauze and frenzy of her music, songs like “It’s Okay,� with its Afghan Whigs-inspired soul, and the alt-country amble of “Troubled� prove that she is ready to strike at the heart of even her own cherished conceits, and come out of it fresh, fighting fit and game for putting herself on the line in the spirit of true musical confession. As a portent of things to come Some Are Lakes is nothing short of inspiring. On its own merits, it’s simply striking. The simplest things are the hardest to make.