Plumbiferous Media

Cloak and Cipher – Land of Talk

Aug 29th 2010
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Cloak and Cipher - Land of TalkLand of Talk
Cloak and Cipher
Score: 62

Canadian indie-rock band Land of Talk released its second studio album since its formation in 2006 this past Tuesday. An extraordinarily typical indie-rock album, not much else is truly extraordinary about Cloak and Cipher. That’s not to say that the album is bad by any strech of the imagination. For an exceedingly generic album, Cloak and Cipher is exceedingly good. It is very much a pleasure to listen to, just not much more than that.

Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell provides lead vocals for Cloak and Cipher. Through the album, Powell demonstrates a variety of vocal styles, some more successful than others. The more successful styles do a good job at demonstrating Powell’s vocal skills as well as the fluid sound of her voice, while the less successful include styles such as the intermittent slightly muted, artifically tinny sound of sections like the beginning of “Cloak and Cipher.” The album does fortunately tend towards the former styles – but there are enough moments like the latter to distract from those more often than they should.

Lyrically, Cloak and Cipher ranges as much as it does vocally. Switching between poetic lines like “Lightning and snow / Cracks and slivers / Burned in a row” and less creative lines such as “You can drive in and drive back / Pull the past behind you,” Cloak and Cipher manages to stay generally interesting without ever seeming to tell a unified story. Instead, the album relies heavily on the imagery of each lone track. This is met with various levels of success, but it’s generally true that Land of Talk has done a good job matching lyrics to sound, even if the lyrics aren’t always engrossing.

Cloak and Cipher is not just an indie-rock album. Cloak and Cipher screams indie-rock album. Of course, that means it has all of those advantages and flaws inherent in such albums, and it displays them readily. The chords are interesting, but the structure often lacks variation. The album is dense and simultaneously well punctuated by percussion, but there’s not all that much variation between tracks in orchestration. And, of course, Cloak and Cipher is just the right amount of catchy, but you can tell right from the start that the album could easily grow exceedingly dull.

That prediction does, at least to some extent, come true. Or rather, while the album may not be exceedingly dull, it’s not an album that requires much attention, nor an album that demands much attention, nor an album that really draws much attention. Of course, in a way, that works out perfectly, but then again it does mean the album really can’t be all that good. The album always sounds decent, but not much more than decent. Creativity is more or less limited to track titles (like “Blangee Blee”), and sometimes lyrics as well, and the overall result is an album that really does sound good but really doesn’t do anything with its sound.

Cloak and Cipher is certainly not a perfect album, and, due to a number of flaws, it really isn’t an excellent album either. It is, however, an interesting album. With Cloak and Cipher, Land of Talk has done enough things right to create an album that is at least somewhat worth listening to – but not quite enough things right to make it exceptional.

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