The Weather Station might be the perfect name for Tamara Lindeman’s musical entity. She’s had her antennae up, listening intently to what’s going on in the world, and translating big climatic shifts into human terms – through songs about strained personal relationships.
Lindeman’s latest album, Ignorance, has hit a bullseye, receiving widespread and high critical acclaim, from the New York Times saying she evokes thoughts of Joni Mitchell; to The Guardian deeming Ignorance a “heartbroken masterpiece”; to Pitchfork calling the record “stunning” and “unforgettable.” And indeed, it’s musically adventurous, with lyrics that refer to our feelings of shame and obliviousness about the climate crisis, as well as our inability to really communicate with each other.
“I think this record has touched a nerve,” says Lindeman. “It’s powerful when ideas and emotions are out there and we all resonate with the same things. I wasn’t sure at first whether the songs were about personal feelings, or feelings I was soaking up from people around me, or from society as a whole. But as I wrote, I realized that it was often all three, and that it was a positive thing to maintain in the lyrics.”
The album opener, “Robber,” addresses the way environmental devastation becomes almost accepted while we’re not paying attention. “The robber don’t hate you,” she sings, “he had permission by laws, permission of banks.”
“I think it’s true,” she says. “The robbers I was thinking of don’t even consider their actions to be negative. We like to find a villain, but that song asks, what if no one is really bad but bad things are still happening? How do we deal with that? Do we need to find a villain that looks like a villain? Maybe we don’t – maybe we just need to contend with what is occurring.”
Lindeman points out that some of the songs might also reference other political issues, like residential schools, or living through the Trump administration. “In naming the album Ignorance I wanted to be a bit confrontational,” she says. “Colonialism is the same as racism and sexism. It’s all learned, false ignorance, imagining that you know what another human being is, or what a piece of land is for. It was difficult not to feel a connection between [Trumpism] and the way people experienced romantic relationships, women in particular. It laid bare all these dynamics that we’ve been accepting for far too long. And to me, it’s all part of the same cultural narrative of silence and learned helplessness.”
““It’s powerful when ideas and emotions are out there and we all resonate with the same things”
The deceptively upbeat “Separated” reflects the lack of real communication Lindeman noticed on Twitter. “We can’t talk to each other,” she says. “The whole point of communication and understanding is absent from these places where we’re having conversations. So I was thinking of all the things that were separated and wrote a list, and it was a good, hooky rhythmic line, but it’s a description of all the ways that we refuse to understand each other.”
Ignorance also represents a sea change in Lindeman’s music, from guitar-based folk to a broader palette that references ‘70s soft-rock and pop, and features keyboards, drum machines, and even a beautiful, jazzy sax solo by Brodie West.
“When I started writing on guitar, I felt like I was just going with the same chord changes and falling into old habits, and when I switched to piano it woke up my creative mind in a positive way and I found it really exciting and fun again,” says Lindeman. “Using the drum machine really opened up the idea of an album with aspects of ‘70s and ‘80s pop music.
“I’ve never really understood the point of genres,” she adds. “I sort of sew a crazy quilt out of different pieces that remind me of different genres. And I like pushing things together, for example a drum style that’s almost like dance music, and strings that remind me of chamber pop, and guitars that remind me of rock. Having them all together is a nice way to achieve an esthetic richness.”
Holding it all together is Lindeman’s voice, a soft soprano that puts a gentle spin on even the darker themes. “I really leaned into that,” she says. “I never learned the skill of singing loudly, I find it difficult and uncomfortable. So I’ve always sung quietly, and I love it because I have this expression in my voice that’s kind of my signature. On the last record I was trying to make my voice say a bunch of stuff emotionally, but on this one I felt like I let my voice sit more softly, and had the instruments express things I can’t embody with my voice.”