Land of Talk’s new album is a skeletal, wiry frame of indie-pop and coffee shop introspection. Over sparse instrumentation and withering lyricism the Canadian lifers, stuck in an ever lasting Autumn, look to the future with hopeful eyes.
The trio came to the fore alongside Canadian indie royalty such as Broken Social Scene, Stars & Metric. While all of these have had greater or lesser claim to the mainstream, Land of Talk’s wispy tones and melancholy tone is more hushed; more personal.
‘Indistinct Conversations’ exists in a perpetual autumnal haze, part vision quest and part fugue state. The title is appropriate. The apparatus of the album is not clearly defined, tracks end on fade outs and fade in over background chatter and barely-heard expletives (the intro to ‘Look to You’) to the blunt ‘Said….fuck you Debbie’ opening ‘Weight of That Weekend’. This disinterest in convention and form makes it all the more personal.
That sweary non-sequitur opens a heartbreaking reflection. Singer Elizabeth Powell reckons with her life in the biz and the men of power who used and abused her. A song about her “recognition of having been on the receiving end of a lifetime of sexual coercion, assault, boundary violations, and subsequent gaslighting“.
That the song is feather-light and uplifting is a testament to the album’s charms and Powell’s crystal clear state of mind. The album may be based on quiet progressions, inoffensive shuffles, wheezing guitars, but the strength of Indistinct Conversations comes in its commitment to self-betterment and growth. It’s a story for survivors.
‘Compelled’ channels down-tempo strummed guitars and a beautiful, aching performance from Powell. “Don’t say I don’t feel the attraction / All I feel is the attraction” she sings with a sigh. This is a pensive collection of songs, rarely breaking a mid-tempo. Even ‘Now You Want to Live in the Light’, which sounds like a declarative statement, is demure. Besides buzzy synths clouding the ending, it’s a gentle ride.
Yet the album does manage an ending that sticks with you, a title track that gathers the snippets of conversation that make up day-to-day life (especially in lockdown) and allows them to play out over peaceful guitar and the soft pitter-patter of a beat. It is the perfect ending to an album fascinated in the minutiae that adds up to the big picture, the little phone calls, the drive home, the long walk through your old neighbourhood, the recconnection with an old friend, that make up normal life. Normal life can be its own kind of therapy. Indistinct Conversations is a testament to that.