Tuesday, March 23, 2021

‘Overcast Conditions’ ‘Ignorance’ (LP) by The Weather Station

Ignorance is a sombre record.  It’s also a dynamic collection of songs. Ten songs, and as The Weather Station’s fifth release in twelve years, represent a steady, synthesised progression from 2017’s eponymous release.  They’re also a good account of why Toronto-based songwriter Tamara Lindeman takes such time between projects.  

Time well spent: here, the marked absence of more traditional, acoustic/electric-guitar-oriented elements is at once immaterial with the opening track Robber. Those elements, so tastefully combined in The Weather Station album, now give way to something far more orchestrated and dramatic. 

A curt, jazzy woodwind & string riff poking in and out, with ad-lib chirps from an alto sax. Resounding, block piano chords and punctuating shots. Lush, sustained string/Hammond B3 sections, drifting and rising between two chords, building intrigue to amplify the piece’s sinister theme. Driving this single momentum on drums, Kieran Adams’s touch is remarkable. Impossibly good. And Lindeman floating a simple pentatonic vocal motif above. A handful of notes. That’s it. Then it all just… stops.  

A thrilling opener, then, and also something to live up to. So Atlantic, keeping a minor key and its tempo brisk, does well to ease the album into a more upbeat mid-riff. Moody and still anxious, it’s an easy medium for Lindeman’s lyrical reflections on mortality and the sublime.  Adams, again, such an elegant engine, clips through with a similar sense of urgency and anticipation. Once arriving at the song’s final, grandiose minor seventh chord, there is dissolution, then debris.    

The next four selections, Tried To Tell, Parking Lot, Loss and Separated brighten the mood, going upbeat for what I’ll call The Pop Section (where I’m occasionally reminded of Tom Petty, in fact).  And yet, despite what is optimistic in sound, it remains starkly contrasted by lyrics conveying the anxiety, alienation and disillusionment of a relationship in decline - ‘Separated by the relief you want to feel / Separated by the belief this cut can heal.’  

Ignorance then strips down for a re-descent into chillier intimacy, making Lindeman’s wispy vocal over the sparse, fractured piano notes in Wear sound almost as if it’s inside your head. Equally so, the brooding, see-sawing chordal intro to Trust. Two bleak ballads reaffirming the keyboard’s primacy on this album. 

A penultimate Heart returns to tempo for a final shot of respite and a declaration of dignity.  It’s a gentle gallop, yet in a strangely evasive mode. That is to say, it’s not clear whether its key is major or minor.  As if it were being perpetually deferred. ‘I will hold my heart inside me…’ And as such, holds itself suspended, unwilling to resolve.    

To end, Subdivision concludes in a sparse, reflective and crestfallen plod, crescendoing then decaying in melancholy; a refrain of the weariness and uncertainty that pervades the lyrical content of these songs. ‘But what if I misjudged; in the wildest emotion, did I take this way too far?’ And so, coming full-circle, to the wilderness and isolation in which she is portrayed in the album cover’s design.

No, Ignorance is not bliss, but it is an intriguing, cohesive, outstanding performance, exhibiting real musical capacity, dynamism and maturity in both songwriting and arranging. Put cryptically, it’s Lindeman at her most Blue - and indeed, at her best.    

David Adamick



Image: The Weather Station: Ignorance Album Review | Pitchfork

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