Reviews

Some Are Lakes

Author: David Bevan
10/01/2008 | Pitchforkmedia.com | www.pitchforkmedia.com | Album Review


As a newly-minted touring member of sprawling indie behemoth Broken Social Scene, Elizabeth Powell certainly has her work cut out for her. But she's not so green. Land of Talk, the band she fronts, debuted in 2006 with the well-received "super" EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, on which Powell steered well clear of the hushed pop ruminations of Emily Haines or Feist. She opted instead for steely, tightly-coiled guitar music you can see your breath in.

Produced by man of the moment Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), Some Are Lakes, Land of Talk's proper full-length debut, is a clear-eyed expansion on the post-hardcore bridge Powell began constructing two years ago, the one that stretches between today's Montreal and the Seattle era that birthed Pretty Girls Make Graves. And while just as thorny and gnarled in parts as its bruising predecessor, Some Are Lakes' has more to offer aurally-- its calms are ultimately more haunting and compelling than its many storms.

Opener "Yuppy Flu" arrives on a current of drums and bass before splashing into Powell's icicle guitar gusts, the three locking horns later in a stretch of white-knuckle harmonic interplay that sets the bar high very early. Unfortunately, save for the jounce of "Young Bridge" or poppy crispness of the title track, that stretch is one of the few moments wherein Powell's rocking doesn't feel a bit ho-hum, like territory not worth revisiting. "The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)" is a chain of minor-chord jangle without any release, while "Give Me Back My Heart Attack" is a wiry mess of crushed glass dissonance that hints at Sonic Youth as much as tireless punk maelstrom "Corner Phone" does. All three tracks contain flashes where Powell's pipes-- arguably as knee-buckling as those of her antecedents inside the BSS stratosphere-- feel fenced-in by racket. Because as satisfying as older rockers like "Speak To Me Bones" or even new jam "Got A Call" prove to be, it can feel like you're fighting for affection from these songs.

Which is exactly why the Fleetwood Mac-meets-Afghan Whigs soul-pop of "It's Okay" is worth returning to time and again. Instantly inviting, Powell's nighttime vocals are pushed up front and left to float, weightless. As violent, plaintive, and ultimately conflicted as anything she's already written ("I know how to kill but I hate how it feels."), many of Powell's lyrical sketches are of the blood red, open-heart-surgery variety, a word set her producer knows well. You could in fact argue that Vernon played a hand in sanding down Land of Talk's edges, mostly to the album's betterment. As on, for instance, the closer "Troubled", an acoustic heartbreaker sung partly in French that was actually recorded at the same hunting cabin Vernon recorded his deep woods opus For Emma, Forever Ago. It's a song with no desire to keep you at a distance or leave you standing outside. That feels pretty good.
Some Are Lakes

Some Are Lakes

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