When we last checked in with Lizzie Powell, she was on the road with Broken Social Scene, playing the role of chanteuse. Now, she’s returned with her own group, Land of Talk, offering up their latest work since 2008’s Some Are Lakes. The new album, Cloak and Cipher, shows a much more developed band, and one that lives up to the early promise of the band.
When you listen to Powell’s vocals on the majority of opener “Cloak and Cipher” she has that same jazz vocal coating that BSS utilize, but in the chorus you find a much more distinguished lady, coming off a little gentler, a little more intimate. There’s a driving drum line, that while not the most creative, serves as the driving force behind the track. “Goaltime Exposure” has a lot of relatives in the Canadian scene, possibly too familiar, but the moment the song is turned on its side, magic is unleashed upon the listeners. Powell’s voice is beautiful here, and there seems to be some sort of emotional release from the music itself, only to go back into the gentle progression before erupting in joy yet again.
The progression of Land of Talk is the one surprising element that does a great benefit to show the beauty on the album, as well as the strength of the band. “Swift Coin” opens up with a nicely drenched bit of reverb atop pounding drums, then Powell enters, and the mood changes. Soft vocals provide a different texture to this song, letting the tension build until the chorus crashes in on the listener’s ears. It’s quite similar, minus the pop element, to “The Hate I Won’t Commit,” which has to be the noisiest song the band has recorded to date. Swirling guitar textures and effects used on the vocals create an entirely different emotion, until the band switch the tempo on you, giving you a little musical wink before pushing off into the louder spectrum again. Such changes provide Cloak and Cipher with a lot more variance in the listening experience, making this record ultimately more rewarding than their previous effort.
It all closes with a solemn affair, “Better and Closer.” Guitars are used sparingly, creating a sort of wall of noise that will accompany Powell’s voice for the duration of the track. Elizabeth’s performance really sums up her talents as they’re seen throughout the LP. It rises quietly, yet with an angelic quality; it drenches the entire record in a coat of wintery pop tones that go a long way to establish the mood within each song. Closing out Cloak and Cipher, you can be sure that this band is now finally hitting their stride, coming together in a cohesive manner we’ve yet to see from them. To date, this is the best collection of songs by Land of Talk, and it goes a long way to establish the group as one of the new powerhouses in Canadian pop music.
Download: Land of Talk – Swift Coin [MP3]