Liz Powell is done with pretending. That much is clear from the first seconds of Land of Talk's stunning new record, the evocatively titled Life After Youth, out May 19 on Dine Alone. "Yes you were, you were on my mind!" she intimates brightly and kindly on the opener "Yes You Were." It's a warm welcome back, the first new music from Powell in seven years.
"It was my old life that was on my mind, it was community that was on my mind," Powell tells Exclaim! She describes being "ambushed" by the melody and lyrics to the song. She hums the melody. "It just seemed natural to be like, 'Yes you were, you were on my mind.' It strikes you." For Powell, songwriting isn't so much a calculated practice but a chance collision of ideas. "It's like talking about dreams," she articulates. "You're trying to remember your dream that doesn't make sense, but you know in your dream it feels so real. It's fun trying to describe the ineffable."
These simple but profound admissions are plentiful across Life After Youth. The repetition of songs like "Yes You Were" and "This Time" was partly a product of watching her father recover from a stroke. "He had to learn how to speak again, how to count, how to think, how to express himself," Powell shares. She iterates that instrumental and repetitive music was key to his recovery. "That really influenced where I was at. I got more in these loop mentalities, or singing mantras like, 'I don't want to waste it this time.' I just wanted to keep singing that."
The new record is, fittingly, a product of collaboration and reunion, with noted former co-conspirators and friends alike. Powell recalls an evening in the studio with Sharon Van Etten; a simple conversation turned into an evening she'll remember for her whole life. She cites those moments as the binding behind the record. "That's what you're never going to hear. Yes, you'll hear the record, but the record is this beautiful artefact of this whole web of friendship and all these beautiful little moments that happened."
Powell is candid, warm and passionate in discussing the new record. It's clear she's dedicated this record to bucking the pressure to internalize, rather opting for sincerity and unfiltered expression. "I'm getting tired of this hip cynicism and cynical hipster bullshit," she says. "It's the age of earnest now, because we gotta take care of each other." She laughs, adding, "Hashtag give peace a chance!"