Review: ‘Ignorance’ by The Weather Station contemplates humanity’s place in the natural world

★★★★☆

by Joe Daher | 2/19/21 2:10am

the-weather-station
by Lucy Handy / The Dartmouth

Frontwoman Tamara Lindeman takes a grand leap on The Weather Station’s fifth album, “Ignorance.” She departs from the band’s previous indie-folk sound to undertake an emotive art rock project brimming with existentialism. Lindeman interweaves personal storytelling with reflections on climate change and urbanization, bringing emotional weight to easily depersonalized issues. Despite a sometimes simplistic sound, the masterful lyricism of “Ignorance” offers a poignant take on the ongoing destruction of the natural world.

Stylistically, “Ignorance” does not stray far from the chamber pop combination of simple drum beats with occasional orchestral components, making the instrumentation feel stale at times. However, Lindeman’s lyrics, which evoke natural beauty and an apology to a world slowly caving in, create a contemplative narrative that sets “Ignorance” apart from The Weather Station’s previous work.

The first track, “Robber,” starts off the album with a grandiose debut of soaring strings and whimsical saxophone, resurrecting the distinct jazz-influenced sophisti-pop sound of 1980s soul band Sade. As the album continues, Lindeman evokes the bittersweet and melodramatic sound distinct to chamber pop. However, toward the end of “Ignorance,” the instrumentation is stripped back to somber strings, melodic piano and laid-back drums. The instrumentation overall plays it a bit safe, especially in “Loss,” “Separated” and “Wear,” which fail to challenge the listener in the way that Lindeman’s creative lyrics do.

The focal point of the album is Lindeman’s evocative lyrics, which frequently describe her relationship with environmentalism. On “Tried to Tell You,” Lindeman turns her attention to society’s denial of environmental issues with a juxtaposed personal confrontation — “You try to deny it, you never felt the tide.” She artfully uses the metaphor of a friend turning away from a loved one to represent abandoning things one holds close, including elements of the natural world like “the wind on the water.” Throughout the track, the lyrics express Lindeman’s helplessness to protect both her friend and the environment from forces out of her control: “I feel as useless as a tree in a city park.”

Lindeman continues to use the lens of a personal relationship to describe the natural world on “Trust,” a heavy song that suggests the aftermath of a dramatic breakup, one in which Lindeman still cherishes her softest feelings of her unfaithful lover despite the pain they caused. She sings of “crumpled petals and misshapen heads of reeds and rushes,” capturing the destruction left behind by the human footprint, and communicates a sense of urgency to address these issues “while we still have time.” These lyrics, while disheartening, implore the listener to heed the album’s warnings about man-made threats to nature.

Lindeman is often expressively mournful on “Ignorance,” lamenting the state of the natural world and passing this dejection to the listener. On “Atlantic,” Lindeman muses about “pink clouds massing on the cliffs” and a “blood red” Atlantic sunset. However, unlike some of the other songs on the album, “Atlantic” is also a sonic high point, featuring an upbeat tempo and gliding flute runs that feel more fresh than the instrumentation on the rest of the album.

“Ignorance” also relishes in the world’s natural beauty. In “Parking Lot,” Lindeman empathizes with the hopelessness of a bird defiantly singing “Over and over and over and over again / Over the traffic and the noise.” She embraces the fleeting beauty of the bird otherwise shrouded by the commotion of urban life, choosing to focus on the small details of the moment like the bird’s “small chest rising and falling.” These minute details make “Parking Lot” a breath of air in an album marked by somber reflection.

Throughout the album, Lindeman weaves her personal narrative into a commentary on environmental issues. “On “Separated,” for example, she shifts her focus to  social media while extending her use of natural imagery to personalize the topic. She explains how social media often amplifies negativity and leads to miscommunications: “You try again your arguments out on me / I try and tell you again / But if you wanted to understand me, you could.” Describing her emotions as “This gushing running river here / That spills out over these plains,” Lindeman connects again the human experience of pain and fear with the natural world. 

The outro, “Subdivisions,” imparts a subdued statement of acceptance as Lindeman falls back into reality driving along a snowy road — “I joined the steady line of cars on the highway.” The bridge blossoms into a final moment of reflection for Lindeman, where she calls, “What if I misjudged / In the wildest of emotion? / Did I take this way too far?” Through these lyrics, Lindeman acknowledges her message’s melodrama without reneging on her passion, leaving listeners to wonder themselves what their role should be in this changing world. 

Despite sometimes lackluster instrumentation, Lindeman’s contemplative tone, combined with the lyrics’ articulate discussion of environmental issues, make “Ignorance” a thought-provoking album that will certainly appeal to those interested in environmentalism.

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