It's easy to picture singer Elizabeth Powell delivering the lines on Land of Talk's debut in a beat-up tank top and jammy bottoms. The music on Applause Cheer Boo Hiss is restless, agitated, and often propulsive, but Powell's bed-headed, sandy voice and slightly cranky delivery make it sound like she's just returned from the Land of Nod. It doesn't help that her lyrics can come off like the ramblings of someone talking in her sleep.
"Isn't summer special?/Easy hair: relax/It wasn't locked right," go the first lines of "Summer Special," but the words are slurred together so seductively that a sense of weariness and menace seeps in. The frustration and fed-up sentiment of "Speak to Me Bones" comes through loud and clear even before you parse that it's a screed against objectification and bar cruising: "Holy God/We are just bags of blood /Stop hitting on girls you love/Stop spitting on girls you love."
Of course, without a sympathetic backdrop to pin these words and melodies against, Powell's voice and venom would go to waste. Her own lushly buzzy guitar work wraps itself around Bucky Wheaton's loose-limbed drum work and Chris McCarron's bass on the rough stuff, like the churning "Breaxxbaxx." When they slow down and open it up a bit, as on "Sea Foam," the rhythm section's sensitivity becomes even more apparent, and the production throughout would call to mind the lo-fi hum of early Broken Social Scene even if the bands weren't countrymen and women. This debut mini-album has teeth and potential aplenty, and augurs well for a follow-up full-length.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment