The Weather Station: Tamara Lindeman takes on climate change on her lush new LP Ignorance

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The Weather Station: Tamara Lindeman takes on climate change on her lush new LP Ignorance

Words by August Billy

An inside look into the most sophisticated project from The Weather Station to date.

Ever since The Weather Station’s debut album, 2009’s The Line, Tamara Lindeman’s songwriting has sounded very assured.

But while no Weather Station record has been a disavowal of the sound of its predecessor, each has built upon the project’s folk roots in different ways. The Canadian songwriter continues this trajectory on her new album, Ignorance – the most polished, rhythmic and pop-oriented The Weather Station record by a distance.

Through the rootsy acoustics of 2011’s All of It Was Mine to the full band drama of 2017’s The Weather Station, the kernel of appeal has been Lindeman’s complex, writerly approach to lyric composition. Past releases have centred on subjects such as faithfulness and faithlessness, feminist politics and the acceptance of love. On Ignorance, The Weather Station’s fifth album, Lindeman’s gaze turns to climate change and its entwinement with neoliberal economics.

“I used to think that I was settling on a sound that I would stay with for the rest of my life,” says Lindeman. “When I made All of It Was Mine, I remember turning to Dan [Romano, producer] and being like, ‘I’m going to do this forever now. This is it.’ But I think each album needs to be different for me.

“Most importantly, thematically it needs to be coming from a new place, or else I just feel like I’m repeating myself. And then I think because each album comes from a different place emotionally, it makes sense to surround it with different music and a different sonic palate.”

A few significant events preceded the recording of Ignorance, which contributed to it being a more hi-fi, layered and sonically dense product. The success of The Weather Station meant that Lindeman had a bigger budget than on any previous project. She was also writing songs on keyboard as opposed to her guitar, and began creating fleshed out demos before bringing the songs to her band.

“Even though the budget was small by international standards, to me it was just a little bit more than I’d ever had,” Lindeman says. “I actually did have a bit of a feeling of, ‘How do I know if I’ll ever have this again? I can’t just make a basement record with this money – I need to seize this opportunity and try to bring in musicians that inspire me and go for it.’”

It was still only seven days in the studio, but Lindeman didn’t fail to seize the opportunity. She assembled a band of accomplished musicians including Kieran Adams from Diana on drums, Christine Bougie from Bahamas on guitar, Brodie West on saxophone and Ryan Driver on flute. The record also features long-time Weather Station bass player Ben Whiteley, Tegan and Sara keyboardist John Spence and vital contributions from percussionist Philippe Melanson.

“I came up with a vision based on the rhythm and sometimes the bassline and aspects of the arrangement, then I started jamming with the band and shaped some of the ideas around them and some of the ideas I imposed on them,” Lindeman says. “It was a really beautiful process of having a vision that was pretty complete and then putting the pieces into place to make it come true.”

A few tracks – namely ‘Tried to Tell You’, ‘Trust’ and ‘Subdivisions’ – were captured live in the studio with Lindeman singing with the band before adding a few select overdubs.

“I essentially had a core group – drums, bass, percussion, keys – that was very well rehearsed, we were ready,” Lindeman says. “And then there was a looser group that I layered on top of that – sax on one day, flute on another day and guitar on another. So it was a nice mix of people who I was asking to play a more rigid role in the record, and then people who I was asking to improvise a bit more.”

After the initial seven-day tracking period, Lindeman and co-producer Marcus Paquin did a lot of subtractive editing where they would take out little pieces of what people played and leave other parts until they found the right balance. “I did some overdubs at home and then [we added] strings,” says Lindeman. 

As beautiful and multifaceted as the arrangements are on Ignorance, the standout components are Lindeman’s lyrics and vocal performances. None of the intimacy of her songwriting is lost in the bigger sound, but the stylistic shake-up did necessitate an altered approach to composing melodies.

“On the self-titled album I was playing with melody and with how many words I could fit into a phrase and letting some phrases run on and some be short. On this album I was being a lot more middle of the road, a lot more straight-ahead with the melody and keeping the words a lot more concise,” Lindeman says.

“I had to scrape away all of the narrative and all of the detail and just leave the emotion, which is not my normal instinct. I feel uncomfortable with that, but I thought it was important on this album to just leave the emotion.”

On songs like ‘Robber’ and ‘Atlantic’, Lindeman’s lyrics are artful and sophisticated while also directly corresponding to the lives that we live. ‘Robber’ personifies industrialised society as a robber who has not just stolen our future, but also entangled us in the very material worship that has led to environmental destruction.

‘Atlantic’ centres on its narrator’s inability to enjoy a moment of pure beauty due to an awareness of the prevalence of brutality and suffering.

“I always feel more comfortable expressing a philosophical or emotional statement when I can pin it down to a moment,” Lindeman says. “‘Atlantic’ is pinned to a moment, just a moment of thought, and I think that’s my favourite thing to do because it feels like such a beautiful depiction of the way life is, where it’s like, a single moment can hold this enormous truth.”

Ignorance is out now through Fat Possum Records via Inertia Music.