Following up their 2017 album, Life After Youth, Land of Talk has released Indistinct Conversations. An eleven-track project, the album is a meditation on subtlety, both lyrically and sonically. Lead singer and guitarist Elizabeth Powell gently tells stories over beds of acoustic, indie-folk instrumentation that is at once complex and minimal; while predominantly featuring just guitar and percussion, additions such as vocal layering and blurry ambient recordings make the songs almost dream-like. The dichotomy in the album’s instrumentals also spreads into Elizabeth’s lyrics. Although her words suggest deeply personal origins and a refreshing level of introspection, their meaning is often hidden by partially-formed sentences and vague analogies. This tendency is often welcome, with the combination of hazy production and stream-of-consciousness lyrics forming songs that feel like a warm, melancholy breeze.
Indistinct Conversations is best described as loosely structured poetry accompanied by music. When Elizabeth sings, her melodies are present but take a backseat, letting her thoughts take control as her guitar ties the two together. This is most vividly displayed on the album’s tenth track, “Now You Want to Live in the Light.” As the song progresses, wind instruments begin to flutter in the background as vocalizations dot along with Elizabeth’s singing; still, the track remains minimal and loose, particularly towards its end. A similarly relaxed approach to structure and melody is found on “Love in 2 Stages,” which almost sounds like one of Swans’ more ambient tracks. The album isn’t entirely unstructured though. “Compelled” and “Look to You” are among the project’s most clearly defined entries when it comes to melody and progression (the latter featuring an electric guitar and drum intro that makes you think of southern rock). Consequently, the project is at once gentle, fun, and continually engaging.
Although it’s often understated, Indistinct Conversations knows when to step into the light with uniquely catchy melodies and delicately multidimensional songs. The band’s cohesion as a group of musicians adds to the sense that the album is a well-rounded, carefully designed project. If listened to in search of straightforward, sing-along music, you may be disappointed. Indistinct Conversations is more interested in the quiet edges of songs rather than their simplistically melodic core. Even when the tracklist becomes somewhat repetitive–with some songs needing a clearer, more distinct musical thesis–the project remains a lovely experience. When the closing track finishes, it feels like Land of Talk has allowed us an intimate glance into Elizabeth Powell’s mind. This intimacy is a gift, one that makes Indistinct Conversations a memorable and delightful listen.