The Weather Station
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
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.
– Uncut’s #16 album of the year; Uncut Editor-in-Cheif John Mulvey’s #3 album of the year.
#2 folk album of the year. Lindeman’s work reminds us that sometimes the quietest voice is the one most worth listening to, the slowest moments might be the most brilliant, and the most valuable qualities are not visible to the naked eye.
– Caitlin White, Brooklyn Magazine
8/10. 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
Every song exudes a strong and individual musical personality, each one wrapped in a carefully shaped arrangement. When I started reading the words, my interest in the album redoubled — just like that. These turn out to be short stories in prose-poem form, arranged with great scrupulousness and performed with imaginative sensitivity. At the moment I’m finding it hard to listen to anything else.
– Richard Williams, The Blue Moment
Tradition-spanning contemplative folk that captures rare beauty in both lyrics and melodies.
– Rolling Stone
9/10. Loyalty is an exceptionally affecting masterpiece, at once timeless and very much of its time, highly personal in its specificity and universal in its emotional accessibility and resonance.
7.8. Lindeman’s third and best LP, Loyalty feels like a 40-minute glimpse into a secret world, where familiar people (sisters, mothers, lovers) and traditional sounds (a fingerpicked guitar, a patient piano) lead intriguing, uncanny lives. It’s a place that demands to be revisited. [The songwriting] puts Lindeman in the company of Bill Callahan and Joni Mitchell, songwriters whose careful combinations of pedestrian details and profound insights also created secret, self-sovereign worlds. And like both of those songwriters, she’s a singer with an unmistakable and communicative voice, able to convey hope and hurt with equal clarity. These are public folk songs about the private problems—breakups and makeups, depressions and deaths—we’ve all suffered.
– Grayson Haver Currin, Pitchfork
9/10. Loyalty is the album we’ve been waiting for from The Weather Station.
One of the year’s most stirring and understated folk records, a masterful collection of humble, ethereal, and introspective music.
– Sean Maloney, Magnet
4/5. Instantly recalls the work of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell, due to her phrasing and the sweet airiness of her voice, but musically speaking, Bill Callahan is more of a kindred spirit. These 11 country and folk-toned songs draw from both the US and British traditions and are as ravishing as they are effortlessly sophisticated and precise.
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
4 stars. Emotionally charged.
A moving, melancholic though magnificent piece of work.
– The Line of Best Fit
Joni Mitchell has been casting a large shadow over folk music recently as we remember and celebrate her legacy. And it’s hard not to hear her whisper behind the voice of Tamara Lindeman.
– The New York Times
Pure folk wonderment.
4/4 stars. The 11 songs on third LP Loyalty feel like eavesdropping on a private conversation within a car on a long winter road trip: something warm and intimate boldly travelling through the centre of a cold, empty landscape. For listeners compelled to hitch a ride, Loyalty rewards with a beautifully delivered collection of quiet revelations.
– Rolling Stone Australia
If I have any chance of getting through the day without breaking down in a fit of rage and depression, it’ll be because The Weather Station was the first thing I heard. That’s how good the songs are.
– The Big Takeover
This is pure, low-key, expressive modern folk music, with sparse arrangements that hit with a strange power (that kick drum on “Shy Women” might punch a hole in your chest). Singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman sounds like a lucid, late-day Chrissie Hynde, her voice floating over the strings, electric piano, acoustic guitar and deep well of bass like the spirits watching over us all. Her lyrics evoke the human condition, taut and immediate, effortlessly blending moods with descriptors to the point where it’s hard to separate the poetry from the feelings they drag forth. With absolutely no pretense or juked feelings, Loyalty is the kind of record that could save folk music as it exists today, and announces that the Weather Station’s development period is done, as Lindeman and her side-players usher forth in full bloom. Outstanding!
– Doug Mosurock, Other Music
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
When I heard The Weather Station’s “Shy Women” for the first time last month, I felt like I had found the elegant, fragile folk music I’d been waiting for years for someone to make. Her new song, “Tapes,” is just satisfying and even more gorgeously languorous. Her voice is the aural equivalent of watching a sparrow coast across a gray sky. She may be rooted in an old American folk tradition, but her melodies are so effortless that they keep sounding fresh.
– Molly Long, The Fader
Her lyrics are nothing short of stunning: as she sings of being “shy, from knowing too well,” she captures the rare intimacy of understanding someone to the point that you hardly need words to communicate anymore.
– Allison Hussey, The Bluegrass Situation
One of the best albums of 2015 so far. A collection of skeletal folk songs that render tiny miseries into tender comforts.
There’s a clean-ness to these compositions, a space for the air to move through. Loyalty can slip into the background if you let it, receding into prettiness until you miss the uncompromising intelligence and honesty. Yet that in itself is a triumph.
– Jennifer Kelly, Dusted
Her specific, detailed visuals are not opaque, but rather offer a portal for the exploration of enigmatic emotional relationships: parabolas and possibilities and perspectives. They show, don’t tell. The album is a lush and beautiful musical chapbook of lyrical prose poems, carried with clarity by Lindeman’s lucid voice.
– Emily Hilliard, WAMU Bandwidth.fm
Part travelogue, part monologue. The Canadian’s filigree-acoustic songs, whose lyrics boast a linguistic verve comparable to Joni Mitchell’s, contrast the pictorial geography outside her car with the emotional topography inside her head.
– Christian Science Monitor
My favourite records don’t give answers. Instead, they ask questions. They wonder about the world and equip the listeners with tools to deepen their own sense of wonder. Loyalty is such a record. [Lindeman’s] songs are small puzzles, rife with koans of keen insight: “Your trouble is like a lens through which the whole world bends, and you can’t set it straight again.” I feel these songs like the lips of a good kisser: curious, tender, insistent, and a little fierce.
– Southern Souls
There’s something confidential, something almost painfully intimate, in the gorgeously bucolic imagery of The Weather Station’s music. Each song is a secret whispered in a dark alleyway that may or may not have people listening in on your conversation.
One of those old-fashioned, pure-at-heart folk records one must listen closely to lest a rousing metaphor be missed… full of character insights and effortlessly charming and clever. Loyalty will be one of 2015’s well-loved releases.
– Tyler Mcloughlan, The Music
A collection of folk-leaning songs so rich in lyrical detail that reading the liner notes is an acceptable initial approach to the record. Hearing it is pay-dirt, though, as Lindeman’s winsome voice glides over gentle, downcast tunes buoyed by her guitars, banjo and various keyboards.
Across these 11 songs, Lindeman effortlessly draws us into her confidence, shares her insights, her fears, her greatest regrets. For forty minutes at a time, Loyalty makes us feel less alone, even in the face of life’s worst tribulations.
– Quick Before It Melts
Lindeman manages to channel the Canadian greats Joni Mitchell, Mary Margaret O’Hara, and Kathleen Edwards all in one heart-breaking, haiku-like, cautionary lament.
– Lefort Report
Within Lindeman’s wispy delivery are striking depictions of landscape and relationships that read like stand-alone poems or essays. Loyalty is a collection of soft songs bathed in falsetto—sounds that feel like a web illuminated by late-afternoon sunlight. The melodies can be minimal, but the tradeoff comes in moments of such delicacy that the songs seem to be breathing. There’s a stillness and observant quality that makes Loyalty feel—to use another buzzword—mindful.
– The Portland Mercury
Loyalty creates a world of its own. Like the album cover suggests, it sounds like a cloudy and quiet morning falling upon a serene lake. The meditative and contemplative mood of this album is straightforward enough to be captivating, but otherworldly enough to be mesmerizing.
– Colorado Daily
A sublime song cycle with lyrical baggage far heavier than her avian voice lets on.
– High Plains Reader
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