Photo by Jeff Bierk courtesy of Kill Beat Music.
The Weather Station is an apt moniker for Tamara Lindeman’s ongoing project; her music often sounds like a forecast, sitting with the present with an eye on the future. Ignorance, her fifth album under the name, is filled with dips and peaks of emotions like so many stormfronts, and is consumed with the many forms of loss: love; self; the world. To name a few. It’s also her most expansive experiment yet, taking the acoustic guitar, piano, and voice that forms the backbone of her music and splattering it with a bucket’s worth of propulsive percussion, orchestration, and Moog synths.
“Robber,” a song that could easily be an album’s centerpiece, instead opens the album. It focuses on what’s being stolen from us as a society, and a species. What’s taken is rarely done so overtly as by the stereotypical raccoon-masked silent film villain. Instead, it happens in the board rooms, the back rooms, the institutions and social contracts that we are all partially complicit in, even if only passively. It’s an arresting (no pun intended) composition, folk augmented with jazz piano and woodwinds, and dynamic string arrangements (by Owen Pallet and Lindeman herself) that recall pocket versions of Paul Buckmaster’s lush and brooding work on Elton John’s classic records. Its slowly increasing tempo recalls a gathering storm, and sets the musical and lyrical mood for the rest of the album.
On “Atlantic,” one of several songs referencing climate anxiety, Lindeman sits at the sea, watching a sunset with a mix of awe and worry, wondering how much longer it will be until the world we have becomes the world that once was. It’s an immediate melody, her wispy, husky vocals uneasy yet resolved. Her voice bathes these songs, swirling in turmoil, with a quiet assurance.
In “Tried to Tell You,” which sounds a bit like late 1970s Joni Mitchell backed by James Murphy, she sits with a friend wrestling self-doubt, and comes to see that encouragement can only go so far, even as one appreciates the value of standing in support. In lines like “I feel as useless as a tree in a city park, standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart,” she could just as easily be sitting with herself. Meanwhile, the achingly vulnerable “Parking Lot” breathes deep, trying to find the strength to sit with overwhelming feelings, while simultaneously not trying to compare yourself to others. It’s a breezy tune to go with such a serious thought.
Ignorance is full of songs with terse, seemingly self-explanatory titles—“Heart”; “Separated”; “Trust”; “Loss”—that belie poetic, emotionally astute explorations of their heavy subjects.
It takes a remarkable combination of bravery and empathy to allow yourself to feel the weight of the world. It takes grace to embrace the sincerity necessary to transform mourning into resolve. Instead of grasping for what has slipped away, Lindeman approaches loss as an eventual acceptance and a jumping off point to the as of yet unwritten future. | Mike Rengel