by Mark Teague
Indistinct Conversations, the latest release from Toronto’s Land of Talk seems, from the outset, to be the kind of dreamy folk album that typifies mid-afternoon festival stages in the hot sun. “Diaphanous”, the first track, is a fitting title to describe not only the song, but the overarching sound of the album. Yet, as the tracks maintain a pronounced lightness, the content begins to reveal a complexity that is not fully realized until the final songs.
Elizabeth Powell’s breathy vocals have a surprising range that she applies as the album turns to become more introspective, beginning with “Weight of that Weekend”. The song opens with what sounds to be an angry voicemail message, and steers the listener into considering the relationship between the term Indistinct Conversations and the themes of interpersonal disconnect that are explored throughout the album.
The last two songs – “Now you Want to Live in the Light” and “Indistinct Conversations” diverge from the rest, introducing elements of dissonance and resolution that pair well with the emergence of a more explicit lyrical frustration than was found in the preceding tracks. The final song begins with the sounds of wind through a telephone and relies on recorded small talk instead of sung vocals. This choice dramatically changes the rest of the album, as it explores the juxtaposition of literal and figurative miscommunication found not only in dialogue, but also in inner monologue. It compares the difficulty of communicating with others as well as with ourselves, and sheds new light on the earlier songs by exposing common troubles in expression.
Elizabeth Powell, through Land of Talk, takes a familiar and comforting pairing of folk-influenced guitar and warbling vocals and uses it to explore the nature of relationships and emotion. Indistinct Conversations, when experienced in its entirety, is an unexpected but timely meditation in an age of uncertainty.