Land of Talk takes another step away from its raw roots with Cloak and Cipher, with songs and vocals that are downright lush and lavish. Singer/guitarist Elizabeth Powell is joined not only by a new rhythm section, bassist Joseph Yarmush and drummer Andrew Barr, but a host of friends that just happen to be Canadian indie-rock luminaries. The Besnard Lakes' Jace Lasek contributes an ornate string arrangement to “Goal Time Exposure,” while Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara drums on the expansive “Quarry Hymns.” With an all-star cast like this, it’s not surprising that Cloak and Cipher is beautifully played and layered. However, too often it feels like the album’s overall sound comes at the price of distinctive songs; “Cloak and Cipher” and “Better and Closer” have every note in place and are never less than pretty, but they’re so soft and smooth that they don’t really stick. While these songs are a little too hazy for their own good, they surround a nucleus of tracks where everything clicks. “Swift Coin” and “Color Me Badd” bring much-needed urgency to Cloak and Cipher, while the jazzy, Metric-like “Hamburg, Noon” and “Blangee Blee” show just how well Land of Talk balance delicacy and rock power when they’re firing on all cylinders. “The Hate I Won’t Commit,” with its guitar onslaughts and sudden stops and starts, proves that Powell and company can still surprise. Though Powell’s voice borders on ethereal and she’s got a flair for gorgeous melodies (especially on “Playita”), she and the rest of Land of Talk make more of an impact when they’ve got an edge, something that Cloak and Cipher unfortunately tends to hide.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares