The Weather Station
You can make a serious album about serious issues that has groove, that has soul, that has not only heart but has actual art to it. It’s been done. Many times – and it always feels like a subtle magic trick. A few years ago Tracey Thorn did so with a record simply called “Record”. Tamara Lindeman is a Canadian artist who, for the last decade and a half, has been recording under the band-name, The Weather Station. It’s her project, in that she is the constant, the line-up remaining fluid around her, five albums deep now and the latest, Ignorance, feels like not just The Weather Station’s finest effort but the first great, deep album of intelligent songs for 2021.
I also mentioned Tracey Thorn because Lindeman has a vocal quality and a way of framing a vocal to float over the piano that is reminiscent of the Everything But The Girl singer; I’ve more than once marveled that much of Ignorance sounds like a imaginary meeting of minds between Thorn and Natalie Merchant. That meeting shared by The Blue Nile.
Serious adult pop music. Only very lightly dramatic. But serious. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Deeply crafted pop music that is not trying to ‘hit’ but is never without hooks.
Maybe I’m mentioning The Blue Nile as much for the shorthand of a group that understands how to wrap heartbreak-pop in sumptuous arrangements. And because as much as The Blue Nile isn’t just a solo project of Paul Buchanan’s it is entirely about Paul Buchanan. Here, The Weather Station/Tamara Lindeman charts the disintegration of a relationship and sets it up as elegy for our burning planet. It’s an album of grief. Of the Stockholm Syndrome that rocks us through the days and somehow to sleep at night. And its served up with saxophones that are used much like early Roxy Music or jazz debris. There’s also the feel of Portishead if recast as a third-wave of alt-country band. I’ll try for one more dream-pairing: Annie Lennox fronting Talk Talk.
In Lindeman’s lyrics and in her melodies and – perhaps ironically – the happy marriage of both she reminds us that stoicism is the stumbling block, that vulnerability is a strength, that the human condition is to try to make a life and to be oblivious to not just the battle but the deep trauma scars that gather, until of course everything, by direct result, unravels.
But while all of this grimness unfolds you catch your toe tapping, you feel like thigh jiggling, you’re smiling, even if thinly, at the joy that fights to the surface in these songs and the cool charm of the arrangements.
This is an album of deep human emotions. And its secrets are arranged in tessellation.
That rare thing happened when I first heard Ignorance. I was hooked. Hooked in a way that I could just feel would last long past the first several spins and this review and deep into next year. This is one of those albums you’ll tell several people about and many will take your word give it a spin and offer some platitude about it being ‘quite nice’. But you’ll sit with it and it with you. And later in the year it’ll be on your list of favourite releases. And beyond that it’ll sit in your collection – perhaps with the other artists mentioned here – as something that will always hook you in, that will remind you too of the powerful human (anti-)qualities, the fragilities and frustrations and feelings that are confounding and sometimes confronting. That are so deeply in all of us as to almost feel hidden. Until you hear something like this – both an album of deceptively simple songs and a roadmap to and for the soul.
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