Album Review: ‘Life After Youth’ by Land of Talk

Life After Youth / Saddle Creek

Since they first emerged in 2006 with
Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, Canadian indie rockers Land Of Talk have evolved into something more reserved and contemplative. Life After Youth continues this evolution by adopting dreampop and shoegaze, making for an immersive cathartic experience.

Elizabeth Powell, the mastermind behind Land Of Talk, wrote this album during a turbulent time of uncertainty and heartache. Between unforeseen technical difficulties with regard to her musical career and her father’s unexpected stroke, music’s capacity for healing in tragedy became central to her new music.
Life After Youth exhibits development both in Powell’s songwriting and the emotional depth of her delivery.

While there’s the distinct syncopation and driving rhythm associated with their back catalogue, Land of Talk embraces oceanic reverb and cosmic synthesizers to a harmonious effect. “Yes You Were” and “This Time” start the album off strong with two great combinations of indie rock and shoegaze, as Steve Shelley (former drummer of Sonic Youth) and Sal Maida (bassist of Roxy Music and Sparks) propel the songs forward while Powell’s glacial guitar drones and ethereal vocalizations hover on top.

Life After Youth finds a compelling balance between acoustic accessibility and alien sonic ventures. “What Was I Thinking?” minds its footing in catchy acoustic guitar, in contrast with washed out percussion and eerie soundscapes. In a similar way, “Spiritual Intimidation’s” earthy groove and jangly guitar strumming finds its foil in modulated synth lines and hypnotic arrangements. Powell continuously finds unique ways of keeping her music poppy while sending listeners on trips through outer space.

Japanese tonkori music played a major part in inspiring the direction
Life After Youth takes — though more in ethos than style. Each song sports a soothing, contemplative undertone that has not been heard from Land of Talk before. “Inner Lover” exemplifies this assuaging element perfectly, with a meandering synth pad filling the space left by a minimalist beat and Powell’s angelic singing. This album revels in sonic ambiguity, with rigid verse-chorus structure giving way to smooth transitions and jammy repetition.

Although it departs considerably from what fans might expect from her, what Powell and company accomplish on
Life After Youth is truly remarkable. Without giving themselves over to manufactured guitar-driven indie, Land Of Talk provides a rock album for those who need a temporary escape from the trials of life. Its power does not come from confrontation, but from empathy. The mental space Powell was in when she began this record translates beautifully through each of these inventively placid tunes. Life After Youth solidifies itself as indispensable for the indie rocker looking for a meditative experience.

photo by: Tyler Knight