Following up their initial EP release two years ago, Montreal's Land of Talk now give us their first full-length album, Some Are Lakes. Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell continues tackling her favorite issues, like relationships, death, and stereotypes of woman in the modern world. For this album, she is backed by the band's original bassist, Chris McCarron, and newcomer Andrew Barr (of The Slip). They've also enlisted engineer extraordinaire Drew Malamud (Stars, Metric) and producer and multi-instrumentalist Justin Vernon (a.k.a. Bon Iver).
"Yuppy Flu" starts off Some Are Lakes with Barr providing a foot-tapping foundation before Powell's jangly rhythm guitar enters. Over the sparse framework, Powell's gritty vocals cut through, spotlighting her characteristically morbid references (the words "death" or "die" appear in over half of the songs), such as "Man, we got a bleeder" and "Are you seeing your own death and selling it to me?"
The album continues with more or less the same tempo and demeanor. Powell seems fixated on her glass-is-half-empty stance on relationships, which contradicts the upbeat song arrangements. Some gems, like the swinging "The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)" and the melancholy break-up ode "It's Okay," provide a much-needed alternative to Land of Talk's straightforward sound. "Troubled," the album's closer, is where Some Are Lakes finally showcases Vernon's influence and the soft musical sensibilities that brought him to national attention with For Emma, Forever Ago. The song is a sweet, melodic waltz with a complementary horn arrangement that allows Powell's voice to croon in a style for which her words were designed.
One would think the appearance of Vernon would allow the band to differentiate from their obvious influences. However, despite Andrew Barr's attempt to develop new rhythmic ideas in every song, the tracks tend to bleed together, impairing each song's distinctiveness. Land of Talk is a relatively new kid on the block in a neighborhood that is already overpopulated (and already has an Emily Haines), but there are hints that they will come into their own as Powell grows as a songwriter. While spending this fall on the road supporting fellow Canucks Broken Social Scene, they might just learn a thing or two.