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Culture Shock

The Weather Station - Ignorance

The Weather Station’s new record is a collection of brooding folk rock songs about climate change. Suitable that a band called The Weather Station would take on this challenge, no? Many listeners may gloss over the record because it is not immediately gratifying, especially for those who do not pay close attention to detail. But this is regrettable, because with quality time it becomes transfixing. Both production-wise and lyrically, Ignorance is complex and wrought with utmost care.

Ignorance positions itself in many ways, directly and subtly, in the long tradition of environmentalist and anti-capitalist music. The song title “Parking Lot” calls back to Joni Mitchell’s fundamental “Big Yellow Taxi.” Although lyrically, it is most directly channeled in “Tried To Tell You:” “You know you break what you treasure / I tried to tell you.” As if accepting the metaphorical baton from Mitchell herself, frontperson Tamara Lindeman gives her own spin on the classic “you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone” line.

Other songs with more anti-capitalist leanings recall fellow Canadian artist U.S. Girls’ incisive lyricism. Album opener “Robber” is a slow burn that details Lindeman’s realization that she is guilty of being a capitalist bootlicker. The robber is a stand-in for the greedy capitalist who fuels our rapid environmental deterioration and is historically responsible for the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. The lyrics are rich with implication: “I never believed in the robber / Nobody taught me nothing was mine / If nothing was mine, taking was all there was.” Ignorance becomes virtuous in a culture where education is whitewashed, and capitalism is king.

What distinguishes Lindeman from past efforts is her pointed focus on the anxious feelings that arise in our modern environmental dilemma. She explores the tragic way in which something so highly abstract as climate change can have devastating effects on one’s psyche. Hopelessness is a natural response. So is impotence: “In my stupid desire to heal / Every rift, every cut I feel / As though I wield some power here” (from the track “Separated”). On another track, “Heart,” the singer becomes pitifully self-deprecating, dubbing herself “dumb” twice. “My dumb eyes turn toward beauty” … “My dumb touch is always reaching for green, for soft” She sings as if wanting to reconnect with the natural world in this day and age is an act of folly.

A strain of doubt runs rampant through the album, raising questions on the value and role of art. “This is what the songs are for” (“Tried To Tell You”), “I am not poet enough to address this” (“Parking Lot”), “Did I take this way too far?” (“Subdivisions”) are all ruminating moments scattered throughout the track list. Is writing an album about the problem going to do enough? Is she qualified enough to be the one to say it? Like much of Lindeman’s lyricism, these urgent thoughts are presented in the most nonchalant manner. If you blink, you might miss them.

That talent is what makes such a difficult subject manageable for The Weather Station. Many of the songs begin to unpack the totally bizarre nature of our modern reality. We are fragmented and polarized by social media, projecting images of put-togetherness, and pretending that living with total disconnect to the natural world is fine. At this seemingly irreversible juncture in human history, is it the most rational for the powerless individual to just be blissful?

The second track “Atlantic” explores this possibility: “I should get all this dying off of my mind / I should really know better than to read the headlines.” Even while the present reality is still beautiful, with a glass of red wine in hand, Lindeman’s mind wanders toward apocalypse. She zooms in on the most minute of details, like a single flower petal, and mourns its imminent loss. Just like in nature, the beauty of her music is in the details.

This album burns slow. It definitely could be more accessible for those who do not want to look up lyrics on Genius or postulate about the meaning of couplets. But for those who are prone to getting stuck in their own head, romanticizing the small things, or worrying about the grave danger that is two degrees Celsius, it will be a rewarding endeavor.


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