Land of Talk -Cloak and Cipher
Record Label: Saddle Creek
Release Date: AUg. 24, 2010
Maybe it's the copious amounts of Molson or the LaBatt Blue, but there's something deeply hypnotic, utterly charismatic and downright transcendent about the current crop of Canadian bands. The laundry list of supreme acts is only mounting, but at the forefront of said list is the Montreal trio Land of Talk. And on their latest album Cloak and Cipher, vocalist Elizabeth Powell, bassist Joseph Yarmush and drummer Andrew Barr make one hell of a statement.
Album opener "Cloak and Cipher," is a saturnine expression of cresting pianos, waves of guitars and Powell's intoxicating vocals. There's just something about every intonation and inflection that ushers you in. Though the song threatens to warble and mumble, there's something so sweetly pivotal about it. On the utterly charming lead single "Goaltime Exposure," the trio offers up one of its best compositions to date, marrying Powell's keen brooding with rushing guitars and a nocturnal skeleton that's melancholic, cerebral and downright wistful.
On the belletristic "Quarry Hymns," the trio offers up a potent slice of mid-tempo meandering. At this point it's worth noting that Powell, who took an extended leave of absence to correct a hemorrhaged vocal polyp has indeed never sound better. She's seductive, sensual and nothing short of stunning.
The jittery "Swift Coin," is the album's first stab at urgent, dense rock energy and that it's one of the disc's first real peaks is probably not a coincidence. Powell's soft vocals are certainly amiable and endearing to listen to, but the album's first three songs are also quite sleepy and languorous. "Swift Coin," is the Montreal trio's first chance to show signs of having a pulse. And hot damn, they don't disappoint.
"Color Me Badd," begins placidly and without conviction, but detaches from that before the minute mark and navigates through swelling guitar work and a concentric rhythm section to deliver a pristine and pleasant exposition on a romance gone sour. Much like "Goaltime Exposure," it has a charm that's downright invigorating.
The dense and bass-driven "The Hate I Won't Commit," picks up on the rattling energy of "Swift Coin," but suffers from a grating introduction and Powell's most irritating vocals to date. The song settles down halfway through and she attempts to recover but the whole thing feels far too schizophrenic to be labeled as anything better than ho-hum. That the last 90 seconds of the song are a funk-inspired instrumental makes the song all that more bizarre.
"Hamburg, Noon," and "Blangee Blee," return the band to their comfort zone and offer up two of the band's more melodic and memorable choruses to date. On both of these songs, there's something tempting and inviting about all of it. Whatever it is she has, you want it. Call it charisma, confidence, Lord know what, but hot damn, can we have some?
Penultimate cut "Playita," is arguably the band's most straightforward compositions but that very fact is actually more of a detriment than a blessing. Calling it boring is probably a disservice but it isn't entirely engaging either. That it comes towards the end of the album is probably a good thing though, as placing this somewhere towards the top half would have been a colossal mistake. The disc ends with "Better and Closer," an airy and haunting ballad that's nocturnal, chilly and unmistakably ornamental.
If there's one negative about Cloak and Cipher it's that one needs liner notes and/or a lyric booklet to follow along with Powell's murmured vocals. More often than not they come across as unintelligible and the entire narrative is lost in a matter of seconds. But is that really enough to bury this band? Not really In the end, what's most refreshing about Land of Talk is the band's simplicity.
This is no-frills, bare-bones indie rock. There's no affectations, there's no forced attempt at artistry, there's no concentrated efforts to be earnest and sincere. There's no attitude or pretense. Aside from some quirky song titles, there's little about Land of Talk that's abnormal. In the end, they're just solid all the way around.
I have been listening to almost exclusively this album lately. Shocked at how much I am loving it.
Even The Hate I Won't Commit. The ending of it was actually the first time I paid attention to the song, which I thought was fun, and it set the tone for all the times I'd hear it again.
I agree with you though, I am wanting to see some lyrics. I could translate close to none of it. But the ragingly interesting story behind how she got all the lyrics is adding insult to injury.