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The Weather Station

The Weather Station — Loyalty (May 12, 2015)

United States                  The Weather Station — Loyalty 
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Album release: May 12, 2015
Record Label: Paradise of Bachelors
A1. “Way It Is, Way It Could Be”      3:40
A2. “Loyalty”      4:00
A3. “Floodplain”      2:49
A4. “Shy Women”      2:48
A5. “Personal Eclipse”      3:34
A6. “Life’s Work”      3:30
B1. “Like Sisters”      4:40
B2. “I Mined”      4:57
B3. “Tapes”      4:17
B4. “I Could Only Stand By”      3:15
B5. “At Full Height”      2:22
2015 Paradise of Bachelors
≡   Paradise of Bachelors is a Record Label, Soundsystem, and Archive located in the North Carolina Piedmont and in the subluminal aether. We are dedicated to documenting, curating, and releasing under–recognized musics of the American vernacular, with an emphasis on the South, broadly defined.
≡   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. ≡   http://www.folkradio.co.uk/
Label: http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com/
Bandcamp: https://paradiseofbachelors.bandcamp.com/album/loyalty
Album Info
≡   The record was called Loyalty from the beginning — it was the first decision I made about it. It’s a word you usually see written in copperplate script, a virtue: LOYALTY. But the songs don’t treat it that way, just as a thing to unpack. It’s a force that you have to reckon with: loyalty to the dream, to the “work,” to the mythical idea of “you” that somebody thought they saw. It can be a weakness as much as a strength; it can keep you from the reality of your own life, your own self. — Tamara Lindeman
≡   In excess virtue lies danger, or at least limits to pragmatic action — it’s a lesson hard learned by anyone disillusioned by the erosion of youthful mythologies. Strict fealty to a fixed ideal of identity doesn’t do us any favors as adults. Loyalty, the third and finest album yet by The Weather Station (and the first for Paradise of Bachelors) wrestles with these knotty notions of faithfulness/faithlessness — to our idealism, our constructs of character, our memories, and to our family, friends, and lovers — representing a bold step forward into new sonic and psychological inscapes. It’s a natural progression for Toronto artist Tamara Lindeman’s acclaimed songwriting practice. Recorded at La Frette Studios just outside Paris in the winter of 2014, in close collaboration with Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) and Robbie Lackritz (Feist), the record crystallizes her lapidary songcraft into eleven emotionally charged vignettes and intimate portraits, redolent of fellow Canadians Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and David Wiffen, but utterly her own.
≡   Lindeman describes La Frette, housed in an enormous, crumbling 19th–century mansion, as “a secret garden, a place of enchantment and grace”: walls mantled in ivy and lions, corridors piled high with discarded tape machines, old reels, and priceless guitars. As she puts it, “Recording where we did meant we embraced beauty — we weren’t afraid of it being beautiful.” Like the record itself, it’s a quietly radical statement, especially since certain passages achieve a diaphanous eeriness and harmonic and rhythmic tension new to The Weather Station. The stacked vocal harmonies of “Tapes,” the drifting, jazz–inflected chording in “Life’s Work,” and the glacial percussion in “Personal Eclipse” contribute to a pervading sense of clock–stopping bloom and smolder, recalling the spooky avant–soul of Terry Callier’s Occasional Rain.
≡   Beyond the decaying decadence and vintage gear, the brokedown palace atmosphere of La Frette afforded a more significant interior luxury as well, one stated with brutal honesty in the stunning “Shy Women”: “it seemed to me that luxury would be to be not so ashamed, not to look away.” Accordingly, Loyalty brings a freshly unflinching self–examining gaze and emotional and musical control to The Weather Station’s songs. She is an extraordinary singer and instrumentalist — on Loyalty she plays guitar, banjo, keys, and vibes — but Lindeman has always been a songwriter’s songwriter, recognized for her intricate, carefully worded verse, filled with double meanings, ambiguities, and complex metaphors. Though more moving than ever, her writing here is almost clinical in its discipline, its deliberate wording and exacting delivery, evoking similarly idiosyncratic songsters from Linda Perhacs to Bill Callahan.
≡   Outside her musical practice, Lindeman also happens to be an accomplished film and television actor, and it’s her directorial eye for quietly compelling characters and the rich details of the everyday, Bressonian in its specificity and scope, that drives the limpid singularity of The Weather Station’s songs. As in Bresson’s films, there is no trace of theater here, no brittle singer-songwriter histrionics, but rather a powerful performative focus and narrative restraint, a commitment to what the auteur called the “simultaneous precision and imprecision of music.” Despite the descriptive delicacy, the album never lapses into preciousness or sentimentality, instead retaining its barbs and bristles and remaining resolutely clear–eyed and thick–skinned. Lyrically, Loyalty inverts and involutes the language of confession, of regret, of our most private and muddled mental feelings, by externalizing those anxieties through exquisite observation of the things and people we accumulate, the modest meanings accreted during even our most ostensibly mundane domestic moments. (“Your trouble is like a lens,” she discerns in “I Mined,” “through which the whole world bends.”)
≡   “Tapes” and “I Could Only Stand By” expose and exalt the quotidian — “the little tapes” hidden beneath a lover’s bed, “the sunken old moorings” at the “bruise–colored lake” — without romanticizing these scenes of, respectively, grief and guilt. “Like Sisters” analyzes the darker contours of a friendship with devastating scrutiny. The breathless momentum of  “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” — “both are,” she sings of the way we sometimes live, for better or for worse, amid multiple truths — hinges on a mysterious moment when two brown dogs die underwheel, then don’t, and that gut–sickness is overturned, a sin redeemed with a second glance. “Floodplain” and “Personal Eclipse” are also road songs about traveling through, and owning, the empty places in–between, literally and figuratively — what Lindeman deems “the various ways people try to disappear from themselves, in physical distance, in politeness.”
≡   To invoke Melville (author of PoB’s namesake story), “extreme loyalty to the piety of love” can be a destabilizing force, a kind of bondage from which we must emancipate ourselves. The line is from his strange masterpiece Pierre, or the Ambiguities; The Weather Station’s Loyalty could quite easily support the same subtitle for the fascinating ways it navigates the deep canyons between certainty and uncertainty, faith and doubt.
≡   The third and finest album yet by Toronto artist Tamara Lindeman, recorded with Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) and Robbie Lackritz (Feist), Loyalty crystallizes her lapidary songcraft into eleven emotionally charged vignettes and intimate portraits, redolent of fellow Canadians Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and David Wiffen, as well as past collaborators Doug Paisley and Daniel Romano.
≡   Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy–duty matte jacket, full–color inner sleeve, and full lyrics, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
≡   Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.
≡   Lindeman writes literate songs with unusual precision and sings them in an understated, open–hearted way that lends good poetry the directness of conversation. [The songs are] insidiously constructed, and scored with such subtlety that the craftsmanship of the playing can easily go unnoticed, so engaging are the words and Lindeman’s voice. There are many wise, deceptively simple insights on this wonderful album. — John Mulvey, Uncut
≡   A stunningly beautiful thing. Lindeman’s voice has acquired a new depth, a smoky, distant, intriguing quality, while both musically and lyrically this is an intricately constructed piece, exacted with a cool gaze and sensuality reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen. — Laura Barton, The Guardian
≡   The best folk album of the year. — Duncan Cooper, The Fader
≡   Loyalty is imbued with the crisp intimacy of the coldest season, the allure of the city of lights. Lindeman’s voice floats by in the higher registers of head voice, never breathy but, instead, misty and amorphous. Lindeman’s songwriting catches your attention and holds it. She’s clever without any smugness, rendering every day events into existential pictures of uncertainty, poking and prodding at subconscious desires without ever fully exposing them. — Caitlin White, Stereogum
≡   Timeless. Recalls the vignettes of another Canadian folk divinity [Joni Mitchell.] But the measured, perceptive storytelling at hand is purely Lindeman’s, singular in both its quiet clarity and compelling relatability. — Eric Torres, Pitchfork
≡   A moving, melancholic though magnificent piece of work. — The Line of Best Fit
≡   An album full of wonderful, enigmatic murkiness, an album that should earn The Weather Station a place at the top table of Canadian songwriters. To say I was completely blown away by it is an understatement. “Way It Is, Way It Could Be” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year. — Folk Radio UK
≡   Hazy and eternal. She makes her songs rush quietly with life’s endless complexities, so their hearts beat and their spirits glow. — Autumn Roses
≡   When a voice emerges with a clarity and purpose that places it midway between a spectrum with Laura Gibson on one end and Joni Mitchell on the other, we can’t help but sit up and listen, arrested, enthralled. — Stereo Embers
≡   Acclaim for The Weather Station and previous releases:
≡   Built from blocks of bluegrass, British balladry, and country sadness … Lindeman’s voice flits and cracks, peaks and valleys, comforts and cries … clenching truth like a catch in the throat. She possesses the unwavering patience of Bill Callahan’s later records, delivering every word and worry like she’s pondered it all into acceptance. For songs so intimate, and performances so inward, such careful singularity feels like a remarkable feat. — Grayson Haver Currin (Pitchfork)
≡   A stunning collection of spare, timeless folksongs. — Wondering Sound
≡   This woman is doing something heavy, and I’m just trying to spread the gospel. — Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas), The Globe And Mail
≡   A perfectly tuned gem of whispered emotion. — The Toronto Star
≡   New folk of the highest order. — Exclaim
≡   Demands close attention… an on–point declaration from a potent and vital Canadian folk talent. — PopMatters

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