Tamara Lindeman’s latest record as the Weather Station is an album of hopeful confrontation, both of the past and the future, of patience and growth.
Death feels close and all-consuming, like stratus clouds hovering calmly over the city. It’s been like that for a while now, since well before the pandemic, which at publication has killed about 2 million people worldwide. It’s not something most people like to acknowledge, however, because this death we are facing is too big to actually deal with on our own. It’s the kind of death that will tear families apart, force people to choose sides, and destroy life as we know it. So for the most part, we pretend it’s not there, either because it’s unbearable or because we simply don’t care. We burrow into our bubbles, keep busy, and hope that one day we will look outside and the clouds of death we’ve been trying to ignore are gone. They will not be. The ability to move about freely usually makes this looming sense of doom bearable, but under pandemic lockdowns, it’s been impossible to escape. Nothing to do now but stare at the clouds.
I think about death when I listen to Ignorance, the masterful new album by Tamara Lindeman’s the Weather Station. It’s presence is felt most on “Trust,” the album’s eighth track, a show-stopping piano-based eulogy for “trust” and “love” and “hope”. The song itself is heavy. Lindeman bellows atop dry piano, her band slowly building and crashing like the Bad Seeds or Talk Talk might. It feels so heavy, though, because it’s the first time on the album that the percussion drops out and we are forced to pay attention to what’s really going on. Lindeman is laying her grief bare, staring the coming reality right in the eyes. And for this brief moment we do too, but then “Heart” kicks in, and with wet eyes we keep on dancing. “Don’t ask me for indifference, don’t come to me for distance, I don’t have the heart to conceal my love,” she sings over a full-on dance groove. Lindeman, unlike many of us, cannot pretend it’s not there.
Continuing the Conversation
Life, Death, and Ignorance: Freelance writer and DOMINIONATED contributor Laura Stanley and DOMINIONATED’s Managing Editor Geoff Parent join host Mackenize Cameron to discuss the Weather Station’s Ignorance on a special bonus episode of 20 or 20.
When I listen to Ignorance I feel alive. There is electricity that runs through the record that is not common on past Weather Station albums or most other albums that could be broadly categorized as pop rock. From the surging and urgent “Robber” up until “Trust,” it’s as if Lindeman has installed new solar panels on the roof of her musical project. Ignorance goes. Its sound recalls 80s Fleetwood Mac, Neu! and the formerly mentioned Talk Talk (pre-Spirit of Eden). That has a lot to do with the band’s energy, a partly-rehearsed/partly-not group of Toronto musicians who are experts at colouring the sounds of the city. Rhythm has always been a central part of the Weather Station’s sound, whether it be rolling toms and finger picking on “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” from 2015’s Loyalty or the building intensity of “Thirty” from 2017’s self-titled record, but here rhythm is the central feature. The constant thud of the bass drum and layers of percussion fluttering around the beat adds urgency but also buoyancy. As you’ve likely heard, this is the first Weather Station album you can dance to.
Ignorance simultaneously makes me think about death while feeling alive. My god, what a wonder. Of course, Lindeman’s writing has always been strong. She writes as Rembrandt painted: works filled with realistic detail of small interactions and the huge emotions contained in those moments. On Ignorance, she focuses her pen on unpacking climate grief, and while that may make it appear like a “protest” record on the surface, the end result is something far more powerful than basic sloganeering. Lindeman explores the pain and hope found in trying to talk people out of their climate change denial or the general darkness we are faced with, and she does it with tremendous empathy. She characterizes herself as someone who lives in the “grey,” signalling an understanding of humanity that so many lack. “Separated” is one of the clearest articulations of the divide between older and younger generations I have ever heard. “You don’t see any problem here, but I do,” she sings, explaining in a single line that the way life in North America has been lived for the past 50 years is no longer viable or acceptable for so many people who face the consequences of all this growth, consumption and destruction. On “Loss,” the exorcism of old ideas sounds like liberation. Ignorance is an album of hopeful confrontation, both of the past and the future, of patience and growth. It makes a very strong case to keep on living in spite of the inevitable and unavoidable darkness consuming our planet and species. In that way, it’s simply a masterpiece.
Life is at the heart of all of it, isn’t it? It’s the reason we have been inside all these months and the reason we are so desperate to get outside as soon as possible. It’s the reason we are consumed by the climate crisis and the reason we ignore it. Ignorance can only be bliss for so long. That thing you’ve been running from will eventually show up at your door. As Lindeman has said, giving up hope right now is the most useless thing you could do, and even though giving up feels easier, I think she is right. One day you just might look up and see birds and those grey clouds turning pink.