Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Land of Talk is yet another band from Montreal, Canada, intent upon re-creating pop music in their own likeness and bringing it to your ears.  Their latest effort, Some Are Lakes, has just been issued by Omaha label Saddle Creek Records.

According to press information, the opening three songs of the album seem to revolve around the band’s earlier sound, which seems to reflect the earthy undertones of the album’s title track.  It is a female-dominated sound that recalls similarities between various Canadian acts that have made their way south of the border.  While these first three tracks definitely showcase the band’s musical repertoire, there isn’t anything too remarkable from these first glimpses.

Then they come straight at you with “Some Are Lakes,” which features stronger vocals from front-woman/guitarist, Lizzie Powell. Here you will find the band cleaning out their sound, ridding the song of extemporaneous noise in place of a more direct approach to your ears.  “Give Me Back My Heart Attack” has the band going back a few steps, those this song definitely has a stronger groove than the opening tracks present on the album.

“It’s Okay” is one of the simpler songs on the album.  Picture Amy Millan singing along to piano ballads and you’ll get the picture for this one.  The band pulls it off, but it’s not altogether very inspiring.  Then the band seems to pick it up from here.  Land of Talk pushes forward with more Canadian influences, but they do it this time with a certain brashness that makes it all seem more worthwhile; it comes off a lot more personal.  At its best when they unleash their guitars, they pull them back momentarily for what is the album’s stand out track, “Got A Call.”  As it sweeps in and out, it sweeps you away in the process.

After all that progress they sum it all up with an acoustic number that doesn’t seem to stray to far from the works of Feist, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the album feel entirely too uneven. Some Are Lakes is an album with varying levels of accomplishment, and those mainly come in the form of a band that let’s loose on the listener, releasing the power they seem to hold back for the majority of the album.  It all ends without the band establishing itself as the predominant force in the music presented here, and they fail to step out of the shadow of the Canadian heavy hitters.

New Single from Land of Talk

Saddle Creek Records has offered up a new single from Montreal band Land of Talk, off their upcoming album Some Are Lakes due out October 7th. They will be touring in support of the new album this fall, but unfortunately won’t be making a stop in the Lone Star State. Enjoy the music this fine Friday afternoon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/somearelakes.mp3]

Download: Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes [MP3]

Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

Rating: ★★★★½

When it was announced that Conor Oberst would be stepping off Saddle Creek for a little bit, I was a bit taken aback; I expected a huge step away from his traditional sound. In some respects, the departure has changed the overall sound, but at the heart of this album is Conor Oberst at his best–ever.

Immediately upon first listen, the change is apparent. The string arrangements, and other effects of long-time producer Mike Mogis have disappeared. For me, it works to the benefit of Conor, because it establishes his voice as the focal point. Sure, in the past, that might have been a bad sign, but he clearly has control over his voice here; his voice sounds stronger than ever. And, in all honesty, I thought the grandiose arrangements on his previous albums got a little over-indulgent–ruining some songs.

However, this new album is listenable the whole way through. I struggled to find a song that I didn’t want to focus on for a moment of time; going back through most songs a dozen or so times before sitting down to write about it. Using headphones will definitely make your listening experience a great deal better, for there are some little nuances in this recording that really open up the album to the listener. The approach of this album seems to be a bedroom approach, which makes the entirety of this album more personable–although I hear it was more of a front porch recording in a quaint town of Mexico.

Lyrically, he continues to get better as he ages. He goes from first person to third person within songs, but all the while holding on to general themes and ideas. A lot of people will probably look to the subject matter, and his continual growth with mystical ideas, but the writing in general just keeps improving. Sure, you can take away some points for his simpleton Spanish where he mutters “El cielo es azul,” during “Eagle on a Pole,” but I suppose the mood struck him. He does it several more times as well.

If there is a fault in this album it might be the inclusion of “NYC-Gone Gone.” It doesn’t add much to the story of the album, but I’m just a listener. Also, there aren’t any standout tracks. For me, this means that the album is extremely even, which I think is good, but some people always want a single. This album suffices without one. Perfect.

Can I just add, that despite the turnout, I applaud Conor for disappearing off to remote locations to record his latest albums, as if Omaha wasn’t enough. I think it adds to the stories he tells, and the feeling of the albums, which, in this case, is extremely beneficial.

Don’t forget he will be playing with his new band at Austin City Limits this year. The man commands a stage well. Watch for yourself.

Sebastien Grainger Lets Loose Digital EP

Sebastien Granger is best known for his work as drummer/singer for Death From Above 1979, but he’s recently emerged with a solo career that is sure to be just as solid. You can go and pick up the American Names EP here or you can just sample a bit of the sweet tunes from us.  

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/mapoftheworld.mp3]

Download: Sebastien Grainger – Map of the World [MP3]

For more information on Sebastien Grainger click this spot.

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