Trouble and hardship often divert the path of one’s life onto an unintentional course. Such is the story of Elizabeth Powell, leader of Montreal collective Land of Talk. During the band’s six year tenure, she weathered lineup changes, losing her voice, and multiple bouts of tour fatigue. She eventually gave up on music after being the victim of a computer crash, losing all of the material for the follow-up to their 2010 LP Cloak and Cipher. Powell had been drifting away from her work for some time when her father was incapacitated from a severe stroke in early 2013. During the time she held the position of his caregiver, Powell was encouraged by her father to get back to songwriting and take back control of her present direction. From those moments comes Life After Youth, an album bursting with narratives on Powell’s recently winding path while signifying her renewed commitment to her musical career.
That sentiment of coming back rings loudest on Land of Talk’s opening single: “I don’t wanna waste it, my life/ And know it was in front of me”. With its relaxed and breezy air, “This Time” not only asserts her motivation for returning to music, but outlines the relationship with her father revolving from child to caretaker and back again. With a complementary emphasis, “Loving” takes those freeing sentiments and turns them into true possibility. Land of Talk adopts a melodic graciousness here, with Powell’s phrasing reminding of the bittersweet yearning of Fleetwood Mac throughout the track: “I’ve been living like I’m locked up/ I can see the midnight skies/ Sometimes love it would sustain you/ Only if you’re on my side”. By the time the bursting guitar coda is reached, “Loving” is already a contender for one of the best songs of 2017.
What has developed over Land of Talk’s six year hiatus is a fresh interest in the adornments and splendor of pop music. “Heartcore” blends a Canadian indie rock insistence (think Broken Social Scene) with Powell’s higher pitched vocal performance, replete with all the sugarcoated oohs of a Top 40 radio hit. On “World Made”, her heartfelt intonations coast effortlessly over a drum roll rhythm. She reaches for some diva-inspired platitudes for this song, the emotions swelling with a dramatic ache often reserved for a passionate disco number. “Pick me, pick me, and I’m still in love with life/ Lay it on, I hurt you”, Powell yearns convincingly over a deft blending of rock and pop grandeur.
Powell’s conceptual switch from focusing on people and events to the important act of reflection on Life After Youth is revealed best on her intimate tracks. The woozy, sensual cadence on “Inner Lover” pairs well with the general aura of craving, sliding along while constricted synths depict a trapped situation for the main character to endure. Tempo racks the tension as well on “”Spiritual Intimidation”, flipping between tender verse to pulsing chorus as Powell details her open-eyed realization: “How you going to live/ If you can’t love?” As Life After Youth is an accomplishment for the distinction as a revival piece, it also reminds of how important a second chance can be in life. For Powell’s Land of Talk project, it is a true triumph as a comeback as well as their greatest album to date.