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review

The voice of Tamara Lindeman is dusky and breathy.Jeff Bierk/Handout

  • Album: Ignorance
  • Artist: The Weather Station
  • Label: Next Door Records/Fat Possum
  • Release date: Feb. 5
Critic’s Pick

For the videos and publicity shots connected to her new album, the Toronto singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman wears a suit made of mirrors. It’s not built for comfort, and Ralph Lauren is not impressed. The looking-glass apparel has meaning, then, serving as the first notes of the album, the start of what she is trying to say.

On her website, Lindeman writes that as a performer she often finds herself to bethe subject of projection, reflecting back the ideas and emotions of others.

Perhaps she is happy to remove herself from the story. She works under the moniker the Weather Station instead of her actual name and, as a walking mirror, isn’t she forcing us to look at ourselves instead of her?

An artist in progress, Lindeman used to be a folkie. Her 2009 debut disc The Line was banjo-plucked bluegrass, with crickets and chimes and hints of an Appalachian drawl.

Over the years, Lindeman’s music moved out of the open air into the drawing room and, with her previous two albums, bigger spaces yet. The Weather Station, from 2017, was a step in the soft-rock direction. Ignorance, her new, fifth album, marks Lindeman’s inaugural foray into composing on keyboard, not guitar, and her first time building arrangements on her own before presenting the songs to a band.

With its jazz dynamics and occasional references to uneasy 1980s pop, Ignorance features some of Lindeman’s richest, most sophisticated tracks yet.

Her voice is dusky and breathy, washing over the material like a cloud of hashish and Feist. On the album-opening Robber, Lindeman’s vocals compete for attention against jabbing strings and the puffs and curls of saxophone notes. Lyrically, she’s deep.

“The robber don’t hate you,” Lindeman teaches. “He had permission, permission by words, permission of thanks, permission by laws, permission of banks/ white tablecloth dinners, convention centres, it was all done real carefully.”

Does Bernie Sanders need a speechwriter? Lindeman’s his huckleberry and his laureate.

When Robber was released as a single in October, Lindeman spoke out about society’s willful naivety. “There are real human people who are literally robbing us and all future generations of all of everything that matters, right now,” she said in a press statement. “But we literally can’t see that as a society, because for one thing we’ve been taught not to value what is taken, and for another because we’ve been taught to glamourize and love the taker.”

It’s easy to rail against greed, tougher to look at the role of the “innocent” victim. Hemingway said “all things truly wicked start from an innocence,” but Lindeman’s a better songwriter.

Robber started a promotional ball rolling for the Weather Station that has Lindeman positioned as this year’s Phoebe Bridgers or Fiona Apple. And while it’s a shame the Weather Station won’t be able to tour to help keep the pedal on the gas, Ignorance deserves all its hype.

The album’s second track, Atlantic, stays with Robber’s insistent beats and woodwind attractions. The song’s dilemma is universal and topical: “I should get all this dying off of my mind. I should really know better than to read the headlines. Does it matter if I see? No really, can I not just cover my eyes?”

Tried to Tell You recalls the socio-ecological commentary of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi. “I’ll feel as useless as a tree in a city park,” Lindeman sings, “standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart.” Parking Lot bounces like Fleetwood Mac. The piano ballad Trust has the elegant moroseness of an old Tears for Fears song about no tomorrows and people running in circles in a “very, very mad world.”

On her sparse, graceful song Wear, Lindeman tries the mad world on as if it were a garment: “Why can’t I be the body graceful in the cloth of it? Why can’t you want me for the way I cannot handle it? Am I ever understood? Am I hidden by this hood?”

She’s asking us questions. The answers? Try looking in the mirror.

Also released

The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings, by the Besnard Lakes: This isn’t an album, it’s an invasion, hovering over Earth like a mesmeric sci-fi symphony. Light and death are ruminated upon majestically by the Montreal psyche-rock maximalists. I’ve often wondered why this band has failed to find a bigger audience. Maybe the band wondered the same thing. And maybe by deciding it only needed to be relevant to itself, the Besnard Lakes has unleashed a conceptual masterpiece.

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Editor’s note: (Feb. 2) An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the record label as Outdoor Music, which owns Next Door Records. This version has been updated.