Graham Reid | | 3 min read
As if to telegraph a new beginning, the 2017 album by the Weather Station out of Toronto was simply titled, The Weather Station.
By that point however the Weather Station – the vehicle for singer and songwriter Tamara Lindeman – had already released four albums and two EPs.
However, you always had the sense Lindeman was on a journey from the folk of her early days to somewhere much more expansive and interesting, and The Weather Station confirmed that.
Lindeman grew up in rural Ontario where she learned piano, sang in a local choir, took up guitar and banjo, and found her milieu in the folk clubs of Toronto when she moved there to study.
Early albums like All Of It Was Mine (2011) and the EP under the prescient title What Am I Going to Do With Everything I Know (2014) were quietly literate and engrossing acoustic folk.
Loyalty (2015) was recorded in France and although still in the acoustic folk vein she dug deeper within her herself for personal songs and hinted at expanding her musical horizons by working with Feist's producer Robbie Lackritz.
If it was the start of her breakthrough that was confirmed by the confident, self-produced The Weather Station where her penetrating lyrics came with synths, strings, flute, electric guitar and keyboards. Her beguiling vocal style inevitably invited comparisons with Joni Mitchell for its supple speak-sing quality (as on the urgent Thirty) but was perhaps closer to Canada's folk-rock figurehead Bruce Cockburn.
In retrospect, the swirling atmosphere of The Weather Station– which ended up in many “best of the year” lists – was another step into more challenging musical and lyrical territory which has come to fruition on her new album Ignorance on the Fat Possum label.
As she told Uncut recently, “I feel I've just been on this steady trajectory towards greater and greater control. And greater and greater acceptance of following what initially felt like whims and now feel like instincts”.
From the fluttering saxophone and taut, dramatic and atmospheric string stabs (which recalls the work of contemporary composer/arranger Daniel Hart on the soundtrack to the final Robert Redford film, The Old Man and The Gun) on the opener Robber through Atlantis (which has a grounding, repeated melodic figure and rhythm close to Fleetwood Mac's Sara), Lindeman has embraced accomplished, rhythm-driven low-mood pop.
It's a genre she deploys again on the chugging Tried to Tell You which comes with the sudden, imagistic moment of realisation in Parking Lot: “Outside the club Iwatched some bird fly up and land on the rooftop. Then up again into the sky. In and out of sight . . . "
Later there is something of Blue Nile's elegance on the lovely Heart: “You can bury me in doubt if you need to . . . I will feel all my loss, I will hold my heart inside me.”
Lindeman wraps her lyrics in musically familiar touchstones – the spaciousness of Talk Talk, a melodic fluidity and jazz-touched settings – but makes them new by virtue of her sensibilities.
Lindeman says her themes here are existential and literal loss driven by concerns about climate change and the disconnect between humanity and Nature, her lyrics often referring to animals, weather, landscapes. However she couches these in terms which might seem to be about the loss of a loved one or a relationship.
It's a tightrope of an extended metaphor she walks with assurance andIgnorancehas rightly been hailed in Paste, The New York Times, The Guardian (five stars, “an album whose bone-deep grief sits inside music that’s very easy to tap a toe to”) and Uncut.
Reference points have been the spaciousness of Talk Talk, although in her confident, melodic fluidity she also edges close to classic Van Morrison.
Because of that background in folk, Lindeman doesn't shout her grief and concerns but embeds them as part of the gloriously realised whole.
Britain's Uncut magazine has it as “the first great album of 2021”.
That is true – although The Besnard Lakes Are the Last Great Thunderstorm Warnings by Besnard Lakes, also out of Canada, arrived so late last year as to perhaps be counted among 2021 releases.
But with Ignorance (a counter-intuitive title if there ever was one), Tamara Lindeman aka The Weather Station is out on her own in the world of adult, thoughtful, crafted, engrossing and melodically mercurial music.
And she still sounds on her way to higher ground.
Ignorance by The Weather Station is available now on Spotify here, and on vinyl and CD at selected record stores.
From time to time Elsewhere will single out a recent release we recommend on vinyl, like this one which comes with a lyric sheet and a download code . . .