weather station The Weather Station (digipak CD, £11.50)
“Timeless ... Measured, perceptive storytelling. A singer with an unmistakable and communicative voice, able to convey hope and hurt with equal clarity.” Pitchfork. “She writes literate songs with unusual precision and sings them in an understated, open-hearted way that lends good poetry the directness of conversation.” Uncut. “Bob Dylan aside, the singer-songwriter I’ve listened to most over the past year, and to whom I expect to be paying attention for many more to come, is Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station)” Richard Williams (The Guardian). On her fourth (and tellingly self-titled) album as The Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman reinvents, and more deeply roots, her extraordinary, acclaimed songcraft, framing her precisely detailed, exquisitely wrought prose-poem narratives in bolder and more cinematic musical settings. The result is her most sonically direct and emotionally candid statement to date. The most fully realised statement to date from Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman. Self-titled and self-produced, the album unearths a vital new energy from Lindeman’s acclaimed songwriting practice, marrying it to a bold new sense of confidence. “I wanted to make a rock and roll record,” Lindeman explains, “but one that sounded how I wanted it to sound, which of course is nothing like rock and roll.” The result is a spirited, frequently topical tour de force that declares its understated feminist politics, and its ambitious new sonic directions, from its first moments. Opener “Free,” with its jagged distorted guitar, is wryly anti-freedom—how very un-rock-and-roll!—in response to mansplaining chatter: “Was I free as I should be, or free as you were? Is it me that you’re talking to? I never could stand those simple words.” Lindeman’s songwriting has always been deconstructive, subtly undermining the monoliths of genre with her sly sense of complexity and irony. She has generally been characterised as a folk musician, and yet with its subtext of community and tradition, the term “folk” has never quite fit The Weather Station’s work; the songs are too specific and lacerating. So appropriately, Lindeman’s so-called “rock and roll record” suspiciously stares down those genre signifiers—big, buzzing guitars, thrusting drums—and interweaves horror-movie strings and her keening, Appalachian-tinged vocal melodies. Reaching towards a sort of accelerated talking blues, she sings As she hits the climax of “Thirty,” a poignant, bittersweet story of a passing crush, you realise she has been singing incessantly for the last two minutes, with nods to gasoline prices, antidepressants, a father in Nairobi—how she “noticed fucking everything: the light, the reflections, different languages, your expressions.” On past records, Lindeman has been a master of economy. Here her precisely detailed prose-poem narratives remain as exquisitely wrought as ever, but they inhabit an idiosyncratic, sometimes disorderly, and often daring album that feels, and reads, like a collection of obliquely gut-punching short stories. The characters of The Weather Station are navigating the unknowable, the frontiers of anxiety, empathy, and communication. On “Power” Lindeman expresses desire for strength and control as decline rather than ascent. “Black Flies” conjures a natural world as discomfiting and forbidding as the distances between us: “Straight line of horizon, and the ocean painful wide … Every crooked word spoken still ringing in your ears like the whine of mosquitoes.” Heat-stricken “Complicit” raises the spectre of climate change; as “all the hot winds blow,” and her guitar knots itself into a helical riff, Lindeman reminds us, “you and I, we are complicit” in the escalating disaster.After two records made in close collaboration with other musicians Lindeman self produced, taking full creative control for the first time since her debut. The band comprised touring bassist Ben Whiteley, drummer Don Kerr, and disparate guests, including Ryan Driver (Jennifer Castle), Ben Boye (Ryley Walker), and Will Kidman (The Constantines). The cover of Loyalty memorably featured the back of Lindeman’s head. On the cover of this record, by contrast, she stares directly into the camera, insouciant in blue jeans, frozen in an artless, almost awkward pose. The Weather Station is her most direct and candid record, and the first one to include tracks one might characterise as pop songs. Throughout, the record grapples with some of the darkest material Lindeman has yet approached: it is, according to her, the first album on which she touches on her personal experiences of mental illness. And yet the gesture inherent to the record is one of unflinching embrace. Despite it all, the characters “fall down laughing, effervescent, and all over nothing, all over nothing.” “Well, I guess I got the hang of it” she sings wryly, “the impossible.” By saying more than ever before, The Weather Station seeks to reveal the unnamable, the unsayable void that lies beneath language and relationships. It’s wilfully messy and ardent and hungry. And that, perhaps, is very rock and roll, after all.
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