The Weather Station‘s universe is a constantly expanding one. Since Toronto singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman first made her debut in 2009 with the intimate, sophisticated folk of The Line, she’s gradually been spiralaling outward from that central point, occupying musical and narrative spaces that feel just that much bigger every time she leaves the studio. Interpersonal interactions become bigger questions about the nature of relationships. One guitar becomes two, and then more fleshed out arrangements of banjo and piano and live drums. Her horizon is continuously unfolding into something brighter and more colorful, offering only deeper shades and subtler hues.
Ignorance, The Weather Station’s fifth album, arrives four years after their self-titled 2017 album, which even more than each previous release emphasized Lindeman’s project as a rich, collaborative effort built on intricate, beautiful indie/art-pop arrangements and the most stunningly elaborate songs of her career. Lindeman and company have only expanded outward again from that point, the 10 tracks on Ignorance harboring so many layers and dynamic elements that it seems reductive to have ever considered this music “folk.” The intimacy at the heart of the songs Lindeman has been writing for over a decade remains, but they ask bigger questions in the context of bigger sounds.
“Bigger,” in this context, doesn’t necessarily mean bombastic, however. Opening track “Robber” threads together a seductively oozing background drone, stark traces of piano, strings and horns in a slow-burning, at-times glacially still art-pop meditation. There’s a lot happening, even when it often appears inert, but it slowly comes to life and out of its thaw, strings surging, saxophone spiraling as Lindeman offers a careful examination of how society is complicit in capitalism’s destructive footprint: “The robber don’t hate you. He had permission; permission by words, permission of thanks, permission of laws, permission of banks, white table cloth dinners, convention centers, it was all done real carefully.” It’s a masterfully executed five minutes, thought-provoking, stimulating and tense as hell.
Ignorance is as much textually dense as it is rich in texture. Lindeman had previously proven herself a masterful observer of love and human behavior, and here she captures those feelings in devastatingly vivid terms. Amid the warm, hushed beauty of “I Tried To Tell You,” she personifies a feeling of hopelessness as universal as it is specific, singing, “Some days there might be nothing you encounter to stand behind the fragile idea that anything matters.” When she zooms out from these private moments to examine something more all-consuming, the result still ends up feeling deeply personal. On the soft-rock disco pulse of “Parking Lot,” she’s brought to tears by the sight of a bird. “Loss” finds her providing an audio guide from denial to acceptance over shimmering pulses in “Loss.” And the buzzing chamber-krautrock of “Atlantic” grooves its way out of the nightmares of the world we live in: “I should really know better than to read the headlines, does it matter if I know? Why can’t I just cover my eyes?“
In the three videos that The Weather Station made before the album’s release, Lindeman is depicted wearing a suit covered in mirror glass, which she recently revealed is already starting to come apart. Yet the symbolism has meaning past the point at which glass and fabric begin to separate: “People project themselves onto you and want you to reflect back what they feel in their hearts, and that is a good and bad thing.” To that end, Ignorance is an album that often feels ripe for interpretation—each song is, at its core, about people trying and sometimes failing to understand each other, either as components in a reciprocal relationship or in the context of an issue that drives people apart, like how to address climate change, which Lindeman uses her platform to speak about often. Ignorance is a world that can’t be fully explored in one sitting. These songs invite some level of personal investment, something more than passive listening, but its aesthetic and introspective rewards are many. The world the album reflects is fragile and crumbling, but the one of Lindeman’s own creation is awe-inspiring.
Label: Fat Possum
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.