When I was working as Assitant Music Director for WDUB, my college radio station, a copy of Land of Talk’s debut, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss was in my review pile. The promoter of the album boasted it was for fans of Metric, so I put it in and immediately got pulled in. Lead singer and songwriter Elizabeth Powell has the ability to convey both power and a fragility to her voice that, when combined with jangly guitars and thunderous drumming, is an irresistable combination. Their first full length, Some Are Lakes, was one of my favorite albums of last year. A combination of irresitable pop tunes, vulnerable slow songs, and head bobbing rock, they seemed destined to be the next big indie band to make it big. But even with the production of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and a tour with Broken Social Scene, the band didn’t quite break the mainstream bubble.
They’re back now with a new EP, Fun and Laughter, another small sample of irresitable tunes to tide fans over with until the next full length. At first listen, some might be reminded of early, Something About Airplanes, Death Cab for Cutie, just by the way the record sounds, but it’s not a far cry from Some Are Lakes‘ catchiness. The opener, “Sixteen Asterik” begins with a syncopated rhythm which tightens up as the band bounces through it. It’s followed by “May You Never,” the defacto single, which does a good job of showcasing the strengths of the band. After a very catchy piano opening, the song breaks wide open. Powell double tracks her voice to harmonize with herself as she hammers away at her guitar, hoping the rest of the band will catch up. If there were one song on the EP to play for someone who’s never heard of Land of Talk before, this one is it.
It’s followed by “As Me,” a brooding song punctuated by clacking drums and guitar lines that weave around each other. Again, Powell is double tracked and harmonizing with herself before ripping into a howling guitar solo. The closer, “A Series of Small Flames” is a soft song played on electric guitar with light tom-toms backing it up. Powell continues to mine the emotional depth she plays with on the rest of the EP, which redeems the otherwise monotonous track. The EP also comes with videos for songs from Some Are Lakes. The songs are fantastic, but the videos are not great. That isn’t to say they aren’t worth watching, especially if you don’t know the songs, but their quality doesn’t match that of the songs themselves.
Overall, Fun and Laughter is probably too short to get a grasp as to who Land of Talk are, but it’s as good a place to start with a very talented band. Good things are on the way for Elizabeth Powell and company, and Fun and Laughter is a nice preview of what’s to come.
Land of Talk – “May You Never” [mp3]
Mike’s Grade: 84