For the past decade-plus Canadian singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who records as The Weather Station, has been offering up piercing introspections on a series of decreasingly folky albums, beginning with the bedroom roots of 2009’s The Line. From the very start, Lindeman has put her own off-kilter, stark spin on traditional idioms, like on 2017’s “Thirty,” from the band’s self-titled breakthrough, where a daydream about a gentle embrace spins out into a sprawling remembrance about anti-depressants, gas prices, and the strength of the Canadian dollar.
But if The Weather Station established Lindeman as a compelling storyteller for a broader audience, her new album, Ignorance, solidifies the 36-year-old as one of the most audaciously inventive auteurs working in the broad singer-songwriter tradition. This 10-song collection broadens the Weather Station’s sonic palette by foregrounding fluttering flutes, crisp orchestral sections, and, most importantly, a propulsive rhythm section (“wanting to dance and to sing ‘in the rhythm of,” as Lindeman sings at one point). Alternating between glassy piano dance grooves and somber noir-folk explorations, the result is an album that sounds like a millennial Joni Mitchell fronting jazzy versions of LCD Soundsystem or the National, depending on the song.
Many of the songs on Ignorance offer an unfussily meta-approach to the messy art of communication and storytelling through song. Halfway through the album, on the pulsing “Parking Lot,” Lindeman finds herself stricken with existential stage fright outside the venue she’s supposed to be performing at that evening. “I confess I don’t wanna undress this feeling,” she sings, uninterested in unpacking her feelings about why she doesn’t want to spend her night unpacking her feelings on stage. “I am not poet enough to express this peeling.”
Lindeman has explained that much of Ignorance is informed by the climate crisis. Ignorance is, however, anything but didactic. The closest she comes to literally singing about our catastrophically warming planet comes during the climax of “Tried to Tell You,” when she ponders feeling “as useless as a tree in a city park/Standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart.”
More often, Lindeman treats Ignorance as a breakup-record with her own dying planet, grappling with what she describes, at one point, as the “fragile idea that anything matters.” Sometimes that means reveling in natural beauty in the face of destruction (“Atlantic”), sometimes it means greed and the loss of innocence (“Robber”), and sometimes it just means grief. Halfway through “Loss,” a song about what happens when using optimism as a survival tactic no longer suffices, Lindeman stakes out the album’s emotional territory in a moment that recalls Van Morrison’s “the love that loves to love” epiphany from “Madame George”: “‘Loss is loss is loss is loss is loss,” she sings, each word its own funeral,”is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss.”
A few songs later, Lindeman arrives at “Heart,” the album’s penultimate track, and its shimmering highlight. The track finds Lindeman, against her better, self-protective instincts, still brave enough to “feel all [her] loss”, to not remain numb to the loss and grief and heartbreak and cynicism crumbling around her. As Lindeman struts her way through a a nighttime city stroll, she dares us, too, to dance our way towards caring: “There are many things you may ask of me,” she sings, to herself, to her fans, to her loved ones, to reckless politicians and polluters. “But don’t ask me for indifference.”