Draw a line through all the best bits of Canadian music – starting with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and working your way through Leonard Cohen, the McGarrigles, Mary Margaret O’Hara and the Cowboy Junkies until you get to more recent acts like Feist and Rufus Wainwright – and you will notice that for such a sparsely populated country it has produced a rich seam of intensely personal, highly accomplished singers and songwriters. Now there is another name to add to that prestigious list. The Weather Station, the nom de plume of Toronto resident Tamara Lindeman, draws some level of influence from most of those great artists, and as a result her third album has a distinct style that is indebted more to locality than to genre boundaries. That is not to say that she is in thrall to her compatriots: from the start her songwriting is assured and the musicianship – aided by Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas and Feist collaborator Robbie Lackritz – creates just the right balance of iciness and warmth.
There is a dreamy, liquid flow to the whole album, not least the percussion and electric guitars of opener Way It Is, Way It Should Be, a song that thrives on ambiguities, moments missed and second chances. In this way it introduces one of the albums themes: the idea that the human condition is one of uncertainty; the idea that there exists a duality of the possible and the actual, and that these sometimes overlap. Floodplain, for example, describes a road trip, taking an expanse of wilderness and turning it in on itself in a way that is at once universal and singular, at times introverted.
Lindeman’s voice bears obvious comparisons with Mitchell, and the jazzy arrangements and breathy delivery of songs like Shy Women back this up. But there is more to her than that: Personal Eclipse recalls the unhurried country-folk of Gillian Welch or the quieter moments of the Cowboy Junkies, while Life’s Work resembles Cohen or Bill Callahan, not just in the lyrics but, tellingly, in the phrasing. Like Sisters twines these styles together most effectively, whilst also marrying simple home truths with difficult psychological uncertainties in a way that deftly avoids platitudes.
Like Callahan, Lindeman is adept at the well-timed mid-song volte-face. The disconsolate narrative of Tapes ends with nagging percussion and shimmering, metallic guitar before a wordless vocal coda provides unexpected release. The brief but beautiful closer At Full Height is, by contrast, simplicity and restraint personified, Lindeman backed by little more than her dextrously plucked acoustic guitar. It is a moment of clarity that concludes an album full of wonderful, enigmatic murkiness, an album that should earn The Weather Station a place at the top table of Canadian songwriters.
Review by: Thomas Blake
Released on May 12, 2015 via