Music Reviews

The Weather Station Ignorance

(Fat Possum Records) Rating - 9/10

The fifth album by The Weather Station, the indie folk project helmed by Tamara Lindeman, starts at a whisper. Robber, the opening song, kicks off with the tapping of a hi-hat before blossoming into a beautiful stream of nervousness. As a solid beat starts to settle in, a haunting piano and a striking string part is added. Somewhere in the background is a squawking horn, ratcheting up the tension. The song moves forward tentatively, as if something dangerous is coming up soon. It’s the first taste of The Weather Station’s new direction, which could be described as depressing folk disco. On paper, it sounds like a joke; but when in action on Ignorance, it moves Lindeman into the history books.

It’s certainly a change of pace from 2017’s self-titled album and 2011’s All of It Was Mine. In the past, Lindeman’s music often felt like it could comfortably and forgettably slide into a Pandora station based on Laura Marling or M. Ward. It wasn’t like Lindeman was a slouch, though. If you listen to The Weather Station, the project’s last album, the skillfulness of her simultaneously- elliptical and common lyrics is immediate. On Ignorance, it’s clear that all Lindeman needed was a stronger sense of rhythm to underline her prose. With this album, she’s found her groove.

Probably the most self-evident thing about Ignorance is how full the arrangements of these songs are. There’s always a beat pushing these songs forward, clearly aided by the combination of Kieran Adams’ straightforward drum patterns and additional textures added by the auxiliary percussionists Philippe Melanson and Marcus Paquin. Grand pianos, Wurlitzer keyboards, and spiraling synthesizers swirl around together to create the song’s melodic foundations, while Christine Bougie’s guitar work often acts as a palm-muted counterpoint. On Seperated, a mid-album highlight, the electric guitar noodles all over the mix, adding quietly to the atmosphere. At the center of any song sits Lindeman’s silky voice, which contrasts nicely with her band’s danceable instrumentation.

Despite the album’s immaculate musicianship, it can only feel like set dressing when placed next to the lyrics. With Ignorance, Lindeman combines universal and personal struggles to produce an album about dealing with relationships and the looming threat of global warming at the same time. On the aforementioned Robber, she catalogues how the evilness of large institutions are often blamed on individuals, when in reality it’s a more systematic issue. She sings about how the individual, the robber, has the “permission of banks, white table cloth dinners, convention centres; It was all done real carefully.” It’s impossible to change the course of an environmental emergency when the systems around you are still polluting at full steam ahead.

An overwhelmingness sits at the core of this album. In a recent New York Times profile, Lindeman refers to that sensation as “climate grief,” but it’s the same sort of emotion that can apply to personal existentialism. She covers both of these topics with ease throughout Ignorance. “I swear I’m alright, maybe you could just let it slide,” she sings on Parking Lot, after detailing how she was moved to tears by a bird flying around in a chaotic city setting. On Tried to Tell You, Lindeman sings that she “feel[s] as useless as a tree in a city park, standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart,” pairing the imagery of nature and a relationship together in what is one of the most affecting songs of the year. An argument between lovers is outlined on Seperated, climaxing with Lindeman saying “If you wanted to understand me, you could.”

What's being attempted here is sensational, an unmissable combination of common emotions and abstract anxieties that shouldn’t work. And yet, when Lindeman shares with us, these songs explode with the air of something incredible. [Believe the Hype]