ザ・ 50 best albums of 2021, 番号 4: The Weather Station – Ignorance

gnorance was not an album that came out of nowhere. Former child actor Tamara Lindeman has been making great albums as the Weather Station for more than a decade, developing her sound from down-home acoustic guitar and banjo to atmospheric folky alt-rock and earning comparisons to Joni Mitchell from some critics in the process. While the latter seemed to have more to do with her vocal phrasing than her actual songwriting, it gives you an idea of the regard in which she was held. それにもかかわらず, her fifth album under the name had a perfectly of-the-moment, lightning-in-a-bottle quality that none of her previous work could quite prepare you for.

At the end of 2018, 彼女は言いました, she was driven “insane” by reading a New Yorker article by environmentalist Bill McKibben, written as California burned during the most destructive wildfire season in history. She subsequently poured her anger and grief into the 10 songs on Ignorance. The lyrics occasionally slipped into something approaching straightforward protest songs (as on opener The Robber, whose titular villain had “permission by laws, permission of banks / White table cloth dinners, convention centres – it was all done real carefully”) だが, ほとんどの場合, they entwine “climate grief” with what sound like words about a failing relationship to startling effect. “I’ll feel as useless as a tree in a city park,” ran a characteristically powerful line from Tried to Tell You, “standing as a symbol of what we have blown apart”.

Occasionally, you couldn’t tell what she was singing about – romantic heartbreak or paralysing despair at the thought of impending ecological catastrophe – or rather, you could take Ignorance’s songs either way. On Parking Lot, the everyday sight of a bird landing on a rooftop, singing “the same song over and over again, over the traffic and the noise” leads to floods of tears: “I know you are tired of seeing tears in my eyes, but are there not good reasons to cry?” asks the chorus, ambiguously. Separated could be about a couple falling apart, or it could just as easily be a depiction of frustration at an endlessly combative era of sharply divided opinions: “If you wanted to understand me you could / If you wanted to hold my hand you would.”

Lindeman also shifted her musical focus, bringing in a new expansiveness and gloss – synths, disco beats, strings, sax and flute that carry a distinct hint of jazz about them. The phrase “soft rock” and inevitable comparisons to Fleetwood Mac were bandied about in relation to Ignorance, although its combination of emotive words and luxurious widescreen music more obviously recalled the Blue Nile. But what you liken the album, there’s something incredibly powerful about the cocktail it offers. In purely melodic terms, these are Lindeman’s strongest songs to date, filled with nagging hooks and gracefully unforced tunes; the sound is smoothly, warmly appealing: you could imagine singing along to them if the lyrics didn’t keep belting you in the gut.

As Lindeman has pointed out, she is “a writer of the small event”. Her songs feel all the more effective for the way they focus in on detail rather than painting in broad brushstrokes, and for the way she avoids sloganeering in favour of something more complex and believable: frequently admitting to feeling overwhelmed, or expressing a desire just to forget or ignore what’s happening, at least for a bit. Its loveliest track might be Atlantic, which finds Lindeman first looking out, bedazzled, at a sunset over the ocean, then desperate to switch off from current events. “I should really know better than to read the headlines,」彼女は歌う. “Does it matter if I see it? / 番号, 本当に, can I not just cover my eyes?」

That feels like a perfect, 機知に富んだ, succinct fixing of the last couple of years: has anyone not felt like that at least once or twice? A product of our times that’s built to last, Ignorance is a fantastic album that marks the full flowering of a great songwriter.

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