Land of Talk: Life After Youth (4 stars)

Land of Talk: Life After Youth

Profound return for Montreal band after 7 year hiatus

Life After Youth is unlike any previous release from Montreal band Land of Talk, with a sense of unexpected calm materialising from its ten tracks. The anticipated intensity of the instrumentation and of frontwoman and chief songwriter Liz Powell's vocals have been toned down but, crucially, without losing the fire or energy found in tracks such as 'Speak to Me Bones' and 'Magnetic Hill' from their 2006 EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss.

Described as the thematic focus of the album, 'This Time' epitomises that shift in its more restrained approach, but the memorable, dynamic chorus for which the band is known remains. This may be down to the change in Powell's approach from a more guitar-based sound to something that incorporates synth and electronic loops to a greater extent. But the experimental characteristics of tracks like 'Spiritual Intimidation' and the tender first single 'Inner Lover' certainly demonstrate this alteration effectively.

Elsewhere, there are clear elements of familiarity, notably in the twinkling guitar lines of 'In Florida' and through the crunchy repetition of closing track 'Macabre'. Powell's vocals continue to be as assured and captivating as ever, especially on 'Heartcore' and 'World Made', where they tower over the instrumental backdrops.

When a band takes a seven-year hiatus, there's always a lingering fear that 'hiatus' may actually be code for 'permanent break'. For many fans, this was a legitimate concern when Land of Talk appeared to retreat following the release of their 2010 album Cloak and Cipher. But this departure from music was not purposeful; in actual fact, Powell was facing a period of personal hardship which had a lasting impact on her creativity. Thankfully, this was temporary and after reuniting with original drummer Bucky Wheaton, she once again found her voice, producing a restorative record that traces the uncertainty, grief and disorientation of that period with profound clarity.

Out Fri 19 May on Saddle Creek.

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