Tamara Lindeman is trapped on the inside looking out on “Ignorance,” her fifth full-length album under the Weather Station moniker. The low profile Toronto actor-turned-folk-songwriter has already flirted with an expanded rock lineup (as on 2017’s self titled LP), but sets an entirely new benchmark for what lush, emotionally-driven indie rock should sound like here.
Throughout the work, Lindeman’s passionate piano and clever lyrics are joined by a powerful ensemble, providing everything from woodwinds to Moog synths. While she guides the sonic expedition through the less-traveled straits of human emotion, the band maintains precise dynamic synchronization to underscore her talent. String sections and sharp guitars ebb and flow on command, while drums and piano intensify in lockstep to match the weight of Lindeman’s revelations about broken relationships, our imperiled environment and the modern woes of capitalism.
The album relies heavily on multifaceted interpretations of “nature,” from Lindeman depicting vivid scenes of shearwater skies on the climate requiem “Atlantic” to likening the uselessness she feels towards a friend’s breakup to that of a tree in a manicured city park on “I Tried to Tell You.” This is also how she presents her aspiration to lead a more harmonious lifestyle, such as on “Parking Lot.” She writes somber lines like, “Over all these ceilings hangs a sky” and “You know it just kills me when I see some bird fly /it just kills me and I don’t know why.”
Underneath the structure of individual tracks, “Ignorance” is also a timely ode to what now feels like an unfamiliar interpersonal closeness. Much of the music’s heavy lifting is accomplished through drawing parallels between humanity’s distance from the literal soft-scape (i.e. greenery, natural resources, the animal kingdom) and a more metaphorical distance that separates individual hearts.
On “Separated,” closeness is undermined by the egos of others.
“Separated by all the arguments you lose /separated by all the things you thought you knew,” sings Lindeman.
However, there is simultaneous critique of an apparent human impulse to perpetuate conflict even when it hurts.
“In my stupid desire to heal,” Lindeman sings, “as though I wield some power here /I lay my hands all over your fear.”
She draws the conflict out, if only to finally exercise some leverage in the dysfunctional relationship in question.
Other times, the closeness she would like to express is not met with conflict, but apathy. On “Wear,” Tamara describes donning the entire world “like some kinda jacket,” only to find it too cold, too unbecoming. She feels that her attempts to “embody it” merely serve to alienate her from others.
On the aforementioned “Atlantic,” she even wonders if she herself might be morally excused for ignoring the world’s nonstop depressing headlines, pleading tragically – “why can’t I just cover my eyes?”
Through it all, “Ignorance” maintains the firm stance that no one should cut themselves off from everything so easily. Lindeman is intent on reminding us to truly appreciate close connections to the world that could cradle us. These connections inevitably make us vulnerable to heartbreak, while also underscoring how our foolish attempts to escape that vulnerability only worsen the pain. In the track “Loss” her desperate falsetto affirms with meditative repetition that there is no paraphrasing grief and allowing oneself to be overcome by such emotions is okay.
By the album’s three closing tracks, the Weather Station truly wins decisive battles in the pursuit of empathy. The tender ballad “Trust” sees Lindeman’s characteristic reticence towards contempt remain steady, even to the bitter legal end of a marriage.
“I don’t have the heart to conceal my love /you can bury me in doubt if you feel it necessary,” she sings over the prodigal breakbeat of “Heart” immediately afterwards, now confidently displaying vulnerability.
Finally, the album’s closer, “Subdivisions,” perfectly encapsulates Lindeman’s urgent call to care. Over some of the project’s most cathartic instrumental backing, she sings of navigating snow-buried streets, escaping the would-be confines of city blocks and road markings to a sort of primitive freedom that has never felt so desirable. Sure, the anxiety of the outside world is still there (the album ends with a cryptic “Did I take this way too far?”), but the band sounds wholly ecstatic to welcome “the disappearance of the central plan, the guiding hand” in the end.
In trying to deconstruct exactly what emotional forces motivate us to build divisions between each other, Lindeman and crew have unwittingly crafted one of the most intimate guidebooks for closer cohabitation in a post-pandemic society. It may be a more subtle, slow burn for those who prefer a harder edge to their music, but “Ignorance” is truly an early 2021 essential for anyone with their heart open and the hot coals of soul-searching burning through their to-do list.