Land of Talk Scale New Heights on 'Performances'

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Oct 12, 2023

It's a common occurrence for artists to describe their latest album as the best work they've ever made. But Lizzie Powell may be one of the rare musicians who can truly stand behind such a declaration. Three years after Indistinct Conversations, the best album of their career up to that point, Land of Talk returns with Performances, the best album of their career to this point. 

Part of what makes the Montreal outfit's sixth LP such a step forward is its desire to step back and pare down. Written primarily on piano and featuring sparse instrumentation from Laurie Torres (Pomme, Julia Jacklin), much of the album's sparse 35 minutes works off aching vulnerability and thoughtfulness rather than the guitar-driven force that drives the band's earlier work. 

Although Powell hasn't changed the way they approach their songs wholesale, nearly every artistic choice they make is virtually skewed. On tracks like "Your Beautiful Self" and "Semi-Precious," Powell's saturated melodies nearly feel too meaty for their skeletal arrangements. But it's this level of risk-taking and imperfection that adds to the record's investigational temperament. Of the album's 10 tracks, only six contain proper vocals, with stunning drum-and-keys closer "Pwintiques" sounding like a cross between Jean-Michel Jarre and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. 

Much like the LP's three 90-second-and-under tracks, "Fluorescent Blood" is a beguiling sketch of a song, as Powell wanders through two and a half minutes of synthetic sounds while somehow setting the exploratory mood of the rest of the album. One of the few songs to heavily feature guitar, "Marry It" is nonetheless wonderfully wispy and tender, standing as the album's most focused piece. The rich soul-styled vocals of "Rainbow Protection" and the bare bones soft rock movement "Sitcom" find the vocals transparent and up in the mix, delivering authentic verses and choruses. From there, Powell provides a proper comedown as they wordlessly and joyously murmur through the brief "August 13," the closest to musique concrete an indie song can get. 

To call Land of Talk's latest LP a left turn would suggest that Lizzie Powell was steering their songs a certain way to begin with. But once the listener is able to fully absorb the unconscious emotions, heart and instincts that went into these quaint recordings, there's no doubt that Performances is Powell's pinnacle… so far.
(Next Door)

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