Land Of Talk

Applause Cheer Boo Hiss: The Definitive Edition (Saddle Creek) 

Land of Talk’s music can be difficult to describe due to the fact that it has evolved so much over the past 18 years. And with all its gorgeous growth and permutations, there’s something poignant and evergreen about Elizabeth Powell’s first release as Land of Talk, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. Originally released in 2006, their debut EP is comprised of seven angular, guitar-driven rock songs that take sonic cues from artists ranging from post-hardcore acts like Fugazi to spacey pop bands like Broadcast, creating a collection that continues to gather urgency nearly two decades later. Before its original release on Maple Music, Dependent Music (Brian Borcherdt of Holy Fuck and Dusted, Jud Haynes of Wintersleep alumni) produced a run of 500 copies of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss in Canada. The album drew the attention of Rebel Music in the US and One Little Independent in the UK, who expanded the EP with three additional tracks. Now, those 18 years later, its momentum persists, and the EP is poised to be re-released on Saddle Creek (U.S., Canada) and One Little Independent (ex-North America) as Applause Cheer Boo Hiss: The Definitive Edition

Applause Cheer Boo Hiss: The Definitive Edition is a collector’s dream, with bonus music spread out across two LPs housed in a gorgeous gatefold jacket that features new and updated artwork. The first LP features a remastered and expanded 10-song version of the original EP, along with five additional downloadable bonus tracks of live material and remixes. The second LP features a remastered version of L'Aventure Acoustique, the limited and adored 10-track release featuring acoustic versions of all seven original Applause Cheer Boo Hiss tracks, as well as acoustic versions of “Young Bridge,” the future Land of Talk track “Some Are Lakes,” and a cover of Wintersleep’s “Weighty Ghost”all on vinyl for the first time. 

This is less of a nostalgic victory lap, however, than it is a momentary pause to appreciate Land of Talk’s unique musical trajectory, and acknowledge the myriad of artists that Powell has inspired along the way, including Hand Habits (Land of Talk was my entry point into contemporary music that inspired me to start songwriting. Lizzie’s voice, sense of melody, unexpected harmony, and incredibly unique guitar arrangements lit a poetic fire in my own approach to finding my voice”); Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn (Simultaneously harder hitting and more vulnerable than anything else at the time, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss is a hugely influential high watermark of mid-aughts indie rock. It didn’t leave my first gen iPod until the battery finally died.); Ratboys’ Julia Steiner (“Even though I can't pin down the exact moment I first heard and fell in love with Elizabeth Powell's songwriting, it doesn't really matter: Land of Talk sounds timeless. The artistic throughline on all of their records captures this perfect balance of mystery and familiarity, of intimacy and intrigue, that doesn't feel tied to any certain genre or era and that truly doesn't get old”); Sharon Van Etten, who collaborated with Powell on Land of Talk’s 2017 album, Life After Youth (I admire Lizzie so much. Their guitar playing and melody writing is so effortless. Their phrasing so rhythmic, their delivery so intimate, familiar, playful, loving, mysterious and at times, pleading…so many sides of their delivery keeps you guessing. It’s exciting at every turn of a Land of Talk album.); and many more.

American Football vocalist/guitarist Mike Kinsella also reflected, “I love their voice—the way they stretch notes and sing behind the hits almost offhandedly, like they’re singing to/for themself instead of an audience.” Fittingly, as the Montreal-based musician’s earliest recordings were created for themself rather than anyone else. Applause Cheer Boo Hiss may be the most unfiltered example of this because the then-nascent band didn’t have any expectations to conform or reject yet. “I remember at South By Southwest in 2007, Mark ‘Bucky’ Wheaton had recently announced his departure from the band, and Justin Vernon (later known as Bon Iver) appeared out of nowhere and helped me load some merch out and was just like, ‘Hey, Land of Talk, I love you guys, I love Applause Cheer Boo Hiss,’ so that was the reason that he approached us,” Powell explains. Vernon would go on to produce and play guitar on Land of Talk’s debut full length Some Are Lakes the following year.

Listening to the EP, it’s clear why Vernon gravitated to this raw collection of songs. From the fuzzed-out melodicism of “Summer Special” to the stripped-down guitar grandeur of “Magnetic Hill,” Powell’s voice shimmers and syncopates in unexpected ways, and already sounds fully formed. “I feel like I’m never going to be fully satisfied with anything I do, but having said that, I’m super proud of the whole EP. If that’s my legacy, I’m good,” Powell explains. “[Fugazi’s] ‘Smallpox Champion’ is a song that definitely inspired the outro to ‘Speak to Me Bones,’ which is a song that I would love to play live again, especially because I wrote it long before MeToo, and since the MeToo movement a lot of people have been naming their abusers, and the abuse of powers in the music industry.” The truth is that Land of Talk has always been ahead of their time. From the gentle guitar-driven experimentation of 2010’s Cloak and Cipher, to the dreamy pop of Life After Youth and tasteful experimentation of 2020’s Indistinct Conversations, Powell has never followed trends. And in the process, they’ve forged a career that’s as interesting as it is enigmatic. 

Granted, the songs on Applause Cheer Boo Hiss didn’t come together seamlessly. Powell admits they didn’t think ahead to the logistics of writing almost every song in a different tuning, or about adding additional songs so it could be released as a full-length album. But that lack of concern about conforming to musical and logistical conventions is part of what makes this collection so integral to Land of Talk’s success. Instead of the standard verse/chorus/verse, the lyrics read more like short blasts of poetry about relationships that are specific enough for the listener to identify with, and ambiguous enough for them to add their own meaning. “My head won’t stop what happens next and my heart closes it up,” Powell sings on “All My Friends,” and that emotional tension is what lies at the core of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, as well as Land of Talk’s subsequent output. In fact, it almost sounds like Powell is addressing themself when they sing “loving is so easy, figure it out” before launching into a perfectly imperfect guitar solo. 

“I’m super proud looking back on how free I was creatively during this period,” Powell says of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. In fact, the EP’s title is both a celebration and a provocation, a dichotomy that lies at the core of Powell’s music and keeps them pushing forward–mostly recently in the form of 2023’s Performances. It’s a musical journey that is still incomplete and evolving, but these songs are a glimpse into the formative years that irrevocably shaped what Land of Talk would become. 

Also on July 12th, a compilation of Land of Talk’s EPs will be available together on vinyl for the first time. The EPs is Land of Talk's 2009 EP Fun and Laughter and the 2021 EP Calming Night Partner.


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