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The Weather Station: Ignorance
by George Graham
(Fat Possum Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 3/10/2021)
Rock bands tend to fall into two categories: a collective efforts, and groups who have a clear leader and main composer. Sometimes the bands are essentially an extension of a singer-songwriter, providing the backing for the front-person’s songs. This week we have one of the latter, the latest recording from a Toronto, Canada ensemble called The Weather Station, led by singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman. Their new album is called Ignorance.
Tamara Lindeman started her career as an actor, but made the transition to singer-songwriter, first in a more folk-oriented context and then formed the band in 2006. The Weather Station released their first album in Canada in 2009, with a more acoustic sound. The new release, Ignorance is their fifth, and the instrumentation is rather electric, but it still has the quality of singer-songwriter record, with some nicely eclectic musical arrangements, ranging from sprightly pop to dark to funk influenced, with several pieces incorporating a small string section. The lyrics are intelligently poetic, leaving room for one’s own interpretations of some of them. Ms. Lindeman’s smoky-sounding alto vocals are perfect match, and the glue that holds the different sonic textures and stylistic influences together. The group on this album includes her long-time colleagues bassist and guitarist Ben Whately and percussionist Ian Kehoe. Other key players on this Toronto-made album, recorded in 2019, include Johnny Spence on additional keyboards, Christine Bougie on guitar and Kieran Adams on drums. There are also a couple of horn players and a sting quartet.
The album’s title Ignorance, Ms. Lindeman explains, derives from the French verb ignorer, meaning a humbleness of not knowing, she adds “The black space at the intersection of hope and despair, a darkness that does not have to be dark.”
So many of the lyrics a have a darker undercurrent, but often in a positive musical setting.
Opening is a piece called Robber, one of those songs that mixes the dark and light, with the robber in the title being more a metaphor. The musical setting is both rhythmically bouncy but with the use of the strings and sax adding the darker elements. <<>>
Atlantic continues with a similar groove with more of the contrasting moods, considering an attractive sunset versus the state of the world. <<>>
One of the most appealing tracks, is Parking Lot, which was probably meant as a single with Ms. Lindeman having made a video for the song. It has an upbeat sound, but the lyrics are about heartbreak, induced by seeing birds in a parking lot. <<>>
Along a similar vein is the track called Loss which is about what its title says, but sporting a musical setting that is pretty danceable. <<>
Another of the album’s most memorable songs is Separated with a good lyrical hook in the context of thoughtful words, and another sprightly arrangement, with prominent use of the strings. <<>>
Among the most creative lyrics on the album is Wear which draws an analogy between the state of the world and articles of clothing. <<>>
There are a lot of sad pop songs about breakups. Ms. Lindeman and The Weather Station create one about one of the more traumatic form of breakup, divorce. The song Trust starts out mainly in a solo piano setting with the strings. <<>>
As a contrast to that is the song Heart which is about not hiding ones love, performed in a musical setting that would not be out of place on the dance floor. <<>>
Ignorance with new fifth album by The Weather Station, featuring the compositions of Tamara Lindeman, is a thoroughly worthwhile recording with songs that tend to combine and the light and dark with the lyrics sometimes contrasting with the musical arrangements. It makes for an interesting album, that can be outwardly appealing and almost dance oriented at times, while the lyrics often take on weighty matters. The band is first rate and the production is tasteful.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A” with a clean sound, and no unnecessary effects. But like most albums these days, the dynamic range, how the recording captures the ebb and flow of the music, is mediocre at best.
The Weather Station is often described as a folk group from Toronto. Their new fifth album Ignorance is definitely electric, but it maintains the literate lyrical style of a folkie but in an appealing band context. The result makes for engaging listening.
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