Album Review: The Weather Station – Ignorance

[Fat Possum; 2021]

On her fifth and arguably greatest album to date, Tamara Lindeman aka The Weather Station is no longer playing games. As the planet progresses towards destruction, Ignorance finds Lindeman valiantly pivoting her message to saving this green and blue marble we all care about. She’s not content to just idly sit back and let it all crumble, and even if she’s not quite going for the jugular on her prose, she’s clearly making a plea that time is running out.

Ignorance might be one of the most important records of the year, as it puts all our hearts and minds under a microscope, and with tweezers in hand Lindeman pulls each layer back. She sneaks in with talk of birds and sunshine, all while she sits in a field of prickly grass, admitting that we’re not alone. The Weather Station hasn’t just crafted a conscious record, she’s disguised it as a well-structured and thoughtful folk-pop record. Much of what makes the record work so well is how the powerful lyrics are paired with the flawless instrumentals and enriched by open production. Many of the songs on Ignorance were recorded live to give it that airy feel, and it works on every level.

Instrumentally, Ignorance transcends the traditional folk that The Weather Station tirelessly perfected over the previous four albums. With an ever-expanding palette of sonics at her disposal, Lindeman weaves these tales of turmoil and regret through the usage of everything possible – horns, strings, several subtle non-acoustic guitars, and most prominently the piano. To reach the levels of awareness she sought required another level of sound, and it crackles throughout Ignorance. She even throws herself fully into a pop song with “Tried to Tell You”, which acts as a plea to someone – anyone – to take this seriously, but ultimately she feels “as useless as a tree in a city park / standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart.”

Despite the call to action instituted on Ignorance, the album doesn’t feel necessarily like a piece of protest music. Lindeman’s angelic voice isn’t convincing anyone to overthrow their government, all she’s asking for is to put pressure on for some accountability and, hopefully, change. As “Separated” makes it clear, this world is stretched thin and divided by powerful demagogues, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying. It doesn’t mean we give up. “I feel as though I wield some power here / I lay my hands over all your fear / this gushing running river here / that spills out over these plains / soaking in all this rain.” All is not lost, and we can come back from this.

Ignorance manages to not just ask for responsibility, but through Lindeman’s effervescent words it pulls environmental concerns into our minds. She paints these colorful settings at her most reflective moments, like on album closer “Better Now”, where she attempts to move on from an individual and finds comfort in the mountains she sees before her. Similarly, on “Parking Lot”, she finds much beauty in the birds, and her appreciation for the things taken for granted daily is awe-inspiring; “It felt intimate to watch it / its small chest rising and falling / as it sang the same song, over and over again.”

“At some point you’d have to live as if the truth was true,” Lindeman sings at the heart of the album on “Loss”. The truth is not always easy to swallow for some, it bursts the bubble they confine themselves to. This moment is filled with desperation and anxiety as the subject faces the truth about mortality. With the present crisis not being taken seriously enough, Lindeman puts “Loss” at the center for those who might not realize just what’s coming. There’s several movies and novels that fantasize about dystopian future worlds where water is scarce and starving children live in dilapidated office buildings; on Ignorance the focus is on today’s loss of humanity – its erosion through the ignorance that Lindeman is highlighting.

With the United States making a course correction on the environment last month, perhaps folks are finally listening, but this is all coming after years of neglect – something that Lindeman’s project hasn’t delved into yet, despite the band’s name. Previously, The Weather Station focused on relationships, the reassembling and disassembling of them, which remains the catalyst for Ignorance. Powerful opener “Robber” makes it clear who carries the blame for this; “No, the robber don’t hate you, he had permission / Permission by words, permission by thanks / Permission by laws, permission by banks,” – basically, everyone in a position of power.

While “Robber” posits that the pillaging of planet of Earth was done by elected officials and money (she’s not wrong), Ignorance is more broadly about the societal complacency, and people’s willingness to turn the other cheek and make excuses for bad behavior. During the contemplative “Atlantic” she laments a desire to unsee it all, “Does it matter if I see it? Why can’t I just cover my eyes?” Even if she’d like to, turning away now would be heinous to her, as the direness of the situation increases daily. Alas, her mind – just like yours and mine – veers towards morbidity, “Thinking I should get all this dying off my mind / I should really know better than to read the headlines.”

Still, the infrastructure everyone holds so dear is directly responsible for our deteriorating home. Those in power continuously convince their cattle to care more about their neighbor’s grass while eating contaminated greens themselves. Governments have chosen to destroy this planet by continuing to plunder its resources, and while Lindeman may not be singing a different tune than countless environmentally conscious minds before her, maybe this glistening musical message will get through to some.