Sunday, February 7, 2021

Review: Ignorance • The Weather Station

When listening in retrospect, each record released throughout Tamara Lindeman's decade-long history with The Weather Station seems to act as another milepost along a path that leads to the band's newest release. Once a no-frills acoustic singer-songwriter outfit, the band has gained enough comfort with sonic texture over its tenure in folk music to apply a progressive definition to the genre: The result is Ignorance, a bolder statement that does not dare mince Lindeman's thoughts on this generation's most prominent socioeconomic worries, even if it does prove to be pleasantly digressive in its musical touchpoints.

While much of the record's press narrative focuses on its underlying inspiration in Lindeman's recent self-education and subsequent activism in combating climate change, she often conveys her thoughts through ordinary circumstances: Take "Parking Lot," in which she gazes at a bird in the unending sky to suspend her human reality while a dance drum kit kicks against a pool of keys and strings, or "Atlantic," when she longs to pause her worry more often to appreciate the landscapes in front of her: "Thinking I should get all this dying off my mind. I should really know better than to read the headlines. Does it matter if I see? No, really, why can't I just cover my eyes?" 

Splashes of jazz inspiration are painted atop the drum and vocal bedrock of "Robber," the album's opening cut: Brass scribbles and the hum of an organ add color, foreshadowing a minute-long instrumental jam session of a finale. "Robber," like most of the record, cradles Lindeman's voice in a moody, saturated environment, sprinkled with genre-exempt adornments to accentuate its most pivotal moments. Almost always approaching a switch between her lower register and falsetto to achieve her melodies, Lindeman approaches her vocal work from a place of modesty: She could nearly be mistaken as a perfunctory vocalist if it weren't for the understated awe for which the band's music aspires.

Opening with its most ambitious material, Ignorance admittedly decelerates in intensity as it continue. When it hits its slowest pace – three-quarters of the way in, with tracks like "Wear" and "Trust" – Lindeman's nonconfrontational melodies can feel a bit meandering until "Heart" reintroduces a palpable drumbeat to push the songwriting back into form. That being said, the sparse "Subdivisions" better asserts its narrative of a lonely winter's drive to close the record: "What if I misjudged? In the wildest of emotions, did I take this way too far?" A record that so often carried grief on a granular level over a widescale crisis comes to a soft yet curiously inconclusive landing point – and it's an ending that only emphasizes there's still more to learn.

Ignorance is available now under Fat Possum Records.

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