PULLING SHAPES Elizabeth Powell

 

 

Don’t call her the new Feist – the Broken Social
Scene singer/guitarist conforms not.

 

By JAMIE
GADETTE

 

Elizabeth
Powell learned to play music by ear. She doesn’t read sheet music and obliquely
refers to chord progressions as “shapes.” When fellow Montreal natives Broken
Social Scene invited her to join their latest tour on vocals/guitars, the
former Suzuki method student had good reason to freak out.

 

“I can’t
even do covers,” she said before one BSS gig. “And now I’m trying to learn
vocal parts written for someone like Feist?” Hours later, Powell jumped onstage
with confidence, grabbing the mic from Kevin Drew and, basically, just being badass.
She realized that “there’s something to be said for stepping out of your comfort
zone-and I’ve been in my comfort zone for far too long.”

 

Land of Talk’s debut EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss is a rough-and-tumble
effort which Powell credits to lots of beer, vodka and zero reference point for
recording. It’s good and sloppy, with the punk sensibility of someone who did
two years in Concordia University’s music department before breaking that rusty
cage and getting the hell out of there. “They attempted to formally train me,”
she says. “I never conformed.”

 

Powell
isn’t one for taking orders, especially from third parties who try to mess with
a good thing. Before working on the new Some
Are Lakes
(Saddle Creek, October 7) there wasn’t a producer in the
world-besides maybe Nigel Godrich-she would let near her pet project.

“I already
find it hard enough to get ideas, I don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen
and I’ve worked with people in the past who were just too heavy handed,” she
says.

 

Bon Iver’s
Justin Vernon convinced Powell to give him a shot at the boards after hearing a
burned copy of For Emma, Forever Ago.
After driving dark highways listening to “Re: Stacks” 80 times on repeat, she
was sold: “It blew my mind. It changed my life.”

 

Vernon joined Land of Talk at a converted studio
church and at the summer lake where
Powell’s parents first met (Some Are
Lakes
was mislabeled in the demoing process) to record a full-length LP.
It’s polished and clean, but maintains an adventurous spirit buoyed by Powell’s
bizarre phrasings.  She might be open to
change, but she’s never going to settle down.

 

“You can’t
really recreate what happened in the studio with Justin,” she says. “I’d like
to go back to free and wild.”

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