On her new self-titled release, The Weather Station learns to be as loud as she damn well pleases.
The first time I saw The Weather Station, it was the fall of 2010. Tamara Lindeman was singing in Bruce Peninsula at the time and opened their show at the Grad Club in Kingston with a set of her own. From what I remember, the set was hushed and delicate, especially compared to Bruce Peninsula. She sang accompanied only by her banjo to a room lightly speckled and half-paying attention. I remember the songs being nice but not particularly memorable. That being said, Lindeman herself was certainly memorable. For one, she was fingerpicking the hell out of that banjo and you could tell by the look in her eyes that she had a story to share, but hadn’t quite figured out how to tell it yet. If she had, she seemed unsure that anyone wanted to hear it. If they did, it would be whispered in their ear—intimate, detailed, and understanding.
The Lindeman we are lucky to hear on The Weather Station is not the same as the artist I saw that night at the Grad Club, nor is she the one we hear on any of her past albums. On the cover of The Weather Station’s 2015 LP Loyalty—a huge step forward in its own right—Lindeman stands, dressed in black, back turned to the listener, presumably gazing out on some body of water. It is a striking cover on its own, but when it’s held next to the cover of The Weather Station, the contrast between the two images becomes an irresistible visual metaphor for Lindeman’s journey to this artistic and musical high point of her career thus far. On the cover of the the Weather Station, Lindeman stands upright, eyes fixed on the shooter. Sucking the colour out of the shot makes her look strong, chiseled against a blank backdrop; a shadow flows from her boots onto the wall behind her; it faces away, similar to her corporeal frame on the cover of Loyalty.
In a documentary that accompanied the release of Loyalty, Lindeman was already exploring and coming to terms with the strength of the stories she was writing in her songs and how to best translate that confidence to the stage. It’s one thing to feel good about something you’ve written for yourself and whole other thing to bare it all to the world. She says that, “In order to successfully put on a performance or put on a show you have to take up space in a room and you have to allow it to be a situation where people are listening to you and you have to be comfortable with that…and you have to feel worthy in this way of being heard.”
If the live shows around Loyalty were about Lindeman becoming comfortable with people hearing her words, The Weather Station is a realization of that confidence, both lyrically and musically. Lindeman says she intended to make a “rock and roll record,” and while she may be right in saying it sounds nothing like a rock record, it feels like one. There is a palpable attitude in her vocal delivery that has never been there before; there is (tastefully) distorted electric guitar; you can kinda dance to a handful of these songs. The first sound you hear on the album is a strummed–not fingerpicked–chord, immediately signalling this album is different than those that have come before.
You also could have gauged this change in tone from the album’s first single, “Thirty”. It is without a doubt the best song Lindeman has written, and over the few months that I’ve lived with it, I’ve often considered that it might be the best song ever written, or more diplomatically, my favourite song ever written. “Thirty” is a statement song if I’ve ever heard one: lyrically detailed but concise, celebratory, and a bit sad. When the band comes in, it’s a revelation, and when the drum and bass break hits, it’s a flex. Rounding out your sound with a full band isn’t proof of anything, but commanding and producing one the way Lindeman does results in an undeniable display of power.
Finding and mining courage and confidence is what the The Weather Station is all about. It’s in the lyrics of “Free” (“All these years I have followed you; it never occurred to you to follow me”), “Kept It All To Myself” (“Then I felt that confidence in me, like a child in a strange new body”) and “Power” (“I spent my whole life thinking that I was some kind of coward”). It’s in Lindeman’s choice to self-produce the album and to write string arrangements that enhance it with jumpy, exuberant colour. It’s in her voice, no longer a small, trickling stream but a set of rapids, churning and spitting you out places you couldn’t have imagined when you committed to pointing your vessel downstream.
The Weather Station is a rock and roll record through and through, but it’s a unique one. So many great rock records have come from the electricity of overly confident twenty-somethings who have yet to be beaten down by life’s generosity, but this one comes from a seasoned songwriter with a new ability to be loud and confident in her strength as a producer, musician, lyricist, and artist. The Weather Station is without a doubt The Weather Station’s most accomplished album yet. It feels like the beginning of a new chapter for Lindeman, no longer shy but still kind, generous, and ready to tell her story, to take up space, and be as loud as she damn well pleases.