Review

Land of Talk struck a delicate balance on Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, crafting bold, often fiery music that nevertheless had room for delicacy. Liz Powell's commanding vocals (and the rest of the band's charged sound) stood out from the legion of wispy indie femmes that dominated the late 2000s, harking back to more powerful artists like Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker and Pretty Girls Make Graves' Andrea Zollo without aping them. Land of Talk's most fragile moments never felt weak, but even when the band snarled, sometimes Powell's voice trembled. On their first full-length, Some Are Lakes, the band has more room to explore and expand on that balance, and with the help of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Land of Talk show far more sides than would have been expected from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. Vernon brings out the vulnerability and unabashed prettiness of Powell's voice -- and the band's music -- throughout Some Are Lakes without sacrificing too much of their previous bite and power. While the slowness and smoothness of "It's Okay" surprises initially, touches like the brisk strumming in "The Man Who Breaks Things" prove that Land of Talk's intensity has just been channeled in different directions. The tension between the band's innate nerviness and its poppier approach makes for some great moments, most notably "Yuppy Flu," which pits Powell's keening vocals against pummeling drums and piles of discordant guitars that sound like they were beamed in from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, and the wistful title track, which finds the edgy-sweet spot between Jenny Lewis' city cowgirl twang and Karen O's post-post-punk power ballads. At times, as on the angular brooding of "Got a Call," it's tempting to want Land of Talk to attack these songs more; "Corner Phone" is Some Are Lakes' only truly explosive rocker here, and it's a tantalizing glimpse of how riveting their heavier side sounds filtered through Vernon's detailed production. For every moment like that, however, there are ones like "Young Bridge"'s brash sweetness and "Troubled"'s album-closing acoustic simplicity, which show just how versatile -- as well as powerful -- Land of Talk can be. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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