Land of Talk: Indistinct Conversations

Through an orchestral haze of woodwinds, Indistinct Conversations begins in mystery. Moments later, we are grounded by a gritty backbeat, tethered to the ground and yet still drifting off, head in the clouds. With this album, Land of Talk has created a mature, confident, and yet enigmatic album, keeping as much hidden as it generously gives away.

“Diaphanous” is exactly what this first track is: silvery, luxurious, not quite see-through, beautiful to look at and surely difficult to have woven. I first listened to this album right after submitting the final version of my Ph.D. dissertation: I fell back onto the couch, finally feeling the weight of all of all those years fall away like a heavy garment, and here was Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell (she/they) to gift me the musical equivalent of its opposite. Gauzy, light, but never weak, the track shimmers to life with a transcendent, trilling chorus of reeds. It was one of those rare moments where I felt that music was speaking directly to me; Powell’s breathy vocals confirmed “it IS Montréal,” reflecting on a love affair with twists and turns that mirror the complicated relationship I have had with the city we both call home.

Photo by Joseph Yarmush

Powell’s songwriting takes centre stage in “Weight of that Weekend” and “Compelled,” (both released as singles). “Weight of that Weekend” features rich, multilayered guitars, an ethereal synth hovering on the horizon, and a surprising, bubbling under momentum. Powell expresses yearning and insecurity in the song’s soaring melodies: it’s a tune that finds you and follows you through the day. The lyrics are impressionistic, not making sense so much as feeling right: “Physical way of night-facing partner / Eyes wide, I let it go to soon / Now I feel it, sit with it while I wait by the moon.” Filtered through Powell’s imagistic lyricism, “Weight of that Weekend” hints towards trauma and resilience, probed with the clarity given by the passage of time.

A true high point is “Compelled,” the album’s lead single. It feels familiar on its first listen, and only gets softer and more comfortable with each spin, like a good pair of broken in jeans. “Compelled” (as does much of the album) balances the darker sides of desire with the redemptive power of innocence. “Compelled” is a fine example of Land of Talk’s resistance to exact musical repetition: we hear verses and choruses, but no two are the same. This mercurial approach to songwriting gives the impression of a musical stream of consciousness: betraying deeply intimate feelings, but couching them in dreamlike language.

Photo by Joseph Yarmush

Throughout the album, Powell’s voice is breathy and detached, yet filled with conviction and earnestness. Ever vulnerable, they chose to include snatches of personal phone calls—likely the “indistinct conversations” of the album’s title. We hear “Oh Mr. Powell,” “walking pneumonia,” “talk to you at 3:30” something about the garden, and what happens when the screensaver turns off.  In this way the album treads carefully, almost giving way to sentimentality, but retreating with coolness and ambiguity, deeply personal and yet somehow evasive. Indistinct Conversations feels a little like a puzzle box made for a handful of intimates: even though we know it’s not made for us, we try all the same to pry it open.

Land of Talk’s Indistinct Conversations is the perfect album for the end of summer, shot through with nostalgia, backward glances, regret, and long shadows. Even when it’s hazy, dreamy, and diaphanous, it surprises with immediacy and visceral energy. As the temperatures get cooler, I can already tell that I will continue to reach for this album for its cozy intimacy and striking song-craft.

Don’t miss Land of Talk at Pop Montréal on September 24, tickets and details available here.