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LAND OF TALK
Lizzie Powell has always been a risk-taker. As the creative force behind the influential Canadian outfit Land of Talk, the Montreal-based songwriter has over the past 15 years amassed a catalog of four unimpeachable albums that stretch the boundaries of indie rock. But Performances, their fifth LP, feels like a total reinvention: an unflinching statement from an artist who’s not afraid to say how they feel. Though it trades muscular guitar rock for understated piano, it’s still the most urgent, cathartic, and personal release of Powell’s career so far. “It’s the weirdest, mightiest little record I’ve made since I used to write music on my four-track when I was 14,” says Powell. “I needed to make a love letter to my teenage self by being more vulnerable and doing all the production myself.” Here, they doggedly value their own intuition over anything else to make their most rewarding album yet.
Work on Performances started in 2021 during a time that Powell refers to as a period of “identity confusion,” where they had trouble finding a place for the intimate, piano-based recordings they were making. ”I realized right away that I was not feeling electric guitar for this album,” says Powell. “At first, I felt like something was wrong with me: Land of Talk is about guitars and me rocking out. But is that all I am? Can I get away with doing a Land of Talk record without a ton of electric guitar?” Instead of pandering to arbitrary expectations and preconceived notions about their career so far, Powell decided to follow the muse and immerse themself into this new artistic lane. “I would write demos and think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t really kind of sound like Land of Talk,’” they say. “But then I realized that I’m Land of Talk.”
With the confidence to freely create what they want, Powell decamped to a rental in Sutton, Quebec owned by a dear friend to write and record. Lead single “Your Beautiful Self” was one of the first songs Powell brought to life. The track’s a slow burn with Powell’s voice starting the song at a lower register. It slowly builds with steady drums and a throbbing bassline until Powell sings, “Take a deep breath / Let it out / Show the love in.” As they sing that line, an electric guitar riff punctures the space in the song allowing for tangible catharsis to seep in. Powell credits another standout song they wrote during this time, the gentle beast “Marry It,” as being the lightbulb moment for the album. “When I wrote the song, I thought that it’s everything I’m trying to say,” they say. “It’s such a cryptic poem of a song but it’s actually me trying my best to explain everything. It’s almost my memoir: it’s really me.”
Hua Li’s project has often worked the fruitful tension between opposing forces, whether being mixed-race, bisexual, or overtly political and softly vulnerable. Now the “half-Chinese, half-militant, half-rapper of your heart” is back with ripe fruit falls but not in your mouth, her most ambitious and personal record to date. Playing between hazy R&B, hip-hop, jazz and electronic, Hua Li’s sophomore LP takes the imaginary garden as a proxy for cultivating home. With complex vocal arrangements, lush production by Alex Thibault (aka Gloze), and big, vibrant mixing by TNGHT’s Lunice, ripe fruit is a private confessional on a loud-ass record.