The Weather Station – Ignorance Album Review

Fat Possum – 2021

Tamara Lindeman has embraced the motion of becoming a front woman, and The Weather Station’s sound is all the brighter for it. This is the fourth album from folk singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman and co. under The Weather Station moniker, following on from 2017’s self titled The Weather Station. With over 10 years under their belt the Canadian outfit have shifted and changed a fair bit in that time, coming from their simple guitar lead folk beginnings they now return with an album that’s as full of grandeur as it is heartbreak.

Throughout this album Lindeman wears the weight of the world on her shoulders, quite literally on “Wear” as she sings “I tried to wear the world like some kinda garment”, questioning her own comfort in the world. It can be hard sometimes to differentiate whether she sings of heartbreak in her personal life or of the world around her, but this only adds to the depth that is felt within Lindeman’s words. On “Seperated” she sings of the way in which the world communicated with each other through social media, and the vast divide in opinions that leads to great levels on disparity. “Separated by all the arguments you lose, Separated by all the things you thought you knew”. Taken out of context however you would assume she is referencing lost love.

That’s not to say however there aren’t some true moments of heartbreak sewn within. “Loss” revels in the realisation that accepting pain is often easier than trying to tell yourself that it’s not there. “Loss is loss, Is Loss” she assuredly repeats on the chorus; repetition as of hope to remember. Then closer “Subdivisions” breathes through its piano ballad verses and excruciatingly beautiful chorus deliveries to sing of a journey of escape, only to come to the revelation that maybe it was all a mistake. “What if I misjudged, In the wildest of emotion, Did I take this way too far?” Lindeman sings as the song closes out, and this question is left open to ponder with nothing left to say.

Taking from that notion however she looks to nature to find the beauty that still thrives throughout the world. “You know it just kills me when I, See some bird fly” she remarks on “Parking Lot”, revelling in the notion of the way society must be perceived by nature and the parallel beauty and sadness of knowing that they can do nothing against the destruction we cause. On “Atlantic” she muses in the notion of trying to turn yourself away from the tragedies of the modern day “Thinking I should get all this dying off of my mind, I should really know better than to read the headlines”. Of course we all need breaks at times when looking out into the travesties that happen on a daily basis, sometimes however it feels we can’t escape them and Lindeman invokes this feeling as she closes out the songs with “Oh tell me, why can’t I just cover my eyes?”; she can’t escape the ignorance.

From the minute this album starts you can hear the confidence and emotion pouring out at every seem. The jazz-centric fanfare of “Robber” sets the tone for the whole album, evocative in understated embellishments of emotion. There’s something subtly cool about the instrumentation used in this album, always used as a spacey and flowing backing force for Lindeman’s vibrant storytelling, never becoming to reaching or overpowering. “Parking Lot” feels like it could be a cut straight off of The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream as the rolling piano line dances and drives the track along backed with waving violin melodies and a driving groove. There are moments where the stringed sections swoon with pure grace and emotive drive, like on “Separated” that builds to an almost unsettling climax, to be gently backed down by Lindeman’s crooning falsetto. There can be other moments where the instrumentation gets a bit too loose and unmemorable. “Wear” has all the grandiose in its chorus of other cuts on this album but doesn’t offer too much in the way of variety and some of the background flairs feel a bit too last minute.

But perhaps the most understated, yet continually powerful sonic element of this album is Lindeman’s effortlessly cool vocal performance. She never tries to reach out too far beyond her reach, and yet you can hear every last bit of emotion as she narrates this tale of earthly ignorance. She’s not hear to sing her heart out to the heavens, but to give her perspective of a broken world, and well if you want to listen then that’s up to you. At moments her vocals can become buried in the soundscape, becoming intertwined in the backing melodies, however this only makes you appreciate the grander moments even more.

A triumphant and heartbreaking collection of groove filled, challenging and naturally free-flowing songs is the end result of what Lindeman and co. have created here. Not only defining their sound and voice, but refining what The Weather Station can be on a grander and ever expanding scale.

Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz Album Review

Year0001 – 2021

Swedish alt punk 5-piece outfit Viagra Boys return with the follow up to 2018’s Street Worms, an album that focused on dystopian social commentary and toxic masculinity. Now the band revered for their live spectacle have distilled their raucous sound into a country-fied and fried punchy journey follow up that through stories of abusive relationships, toxic masculinity and their disdain for far-right political parties, carries on their message of the need for self evaluation.

Throughout this album the bleak and satirical stance of the band continue, this time in an even more humorous form. Often lead singer Sebastian Murphy will take to singing in the style of a caricature of the masculine men they are confronting. On “Toad” he sings “Well, I don’t need no woman tellin’ me, When to go bed and when to brush my teeth” , whilst giving his best southern American impression. It’s this ability to criticise whilst also adding an air of whimsy about the critique that allows these songs to become more relatable and accessible to the wider audience. We can all laugh at the cartoon like characters, but at the same time it makes us stop and think about how people like this still live in society, and the progress that still needs to be made. “Creatures” is the bans take on an anthem for the underclass as they deliver an emphatic chorus line of “We are the creatures, Down at the bottom, We trade in scrap metal, And electronics”. It’s inspiring in it’s self-depreciation and unifying stance of admiration of the working class.

The commentary is sometimes blurred on this album though between fact and fiction as stories also come from a personal perspective from Murphy. The ground shaking “Ain’t Nice” is Murphy retelling the recent break up he endured and looking back on himself, realising that he should have done things differently, but it’s too late now.

The title itself relates to free jazz, or jazz that can’t be lived off. And this idea of free moving sounds can be heard throughout as the band continues their run of genre blending songs, incorporating elements of punk, jazz, disco, electronic music and a huge helping of country. Shifting and moving between sounds almost seamlessly, going from the honky-tonk grooves of “I Feel Alive” to the euro-house infused “Girls And Boys” is quite the juxtaposition, and yet it they both carry the bands signature blend of entrancing and mysterious soundscapes. You can hear every influence as they wear them on their sleeves and yet they create a sound that feels fresh and ever evolving. To simply list them in the category of ‘punk’ would be an injustice to their strive for fresh and new ways to manipulate and mould each song to not only represent the emotion they are delivering, but also to have a personality of its own. This is perhaps highlighted on closer “In Spite Of Ourselves”, a cover of John Prine’s 1999 classic with Amy Taylor from Amyl and The Sniffers taking the part Iris DeMent originally sang. The once happy-go-lucky sound is transformed into a crunching and psychedelic infused unsettling ode to the love among the lower class. The beats are pounding, the guitars are sun drenched and the soundscape is erratic but it serves as prominent closer to an album full of bravado.

One element that stands out more often than not in this album is the ever expanding sound design. The band captures a lo-fi feeling, whilst also allowing each sound to explode out and pound through the mix. Just take the rolling crunchy bass line of opener “Ain’t Nice”, mixed with the ringing synth interjects and scatty saxophone that appears to add a flavour of welcome warmth to the track. And “Into The Sun” is so luscious on your ears that you can almost feel yourself floating away into the eternal brightness as the phaser smothered guitar lines and chugging bass line carries you on your ascent.

There are moments however on the album that can sometimes get lost in the sound play whilst not really progressing the album to anywhere new, like on “6 Shooter” that although keeps with the bands pulsing sound seems to spend it’s near 5 minute run time just rolling over the same riff with different interjections occasionally appearing to try and add something new; it may work in a live setting but on the album just takes too much away from the impactful songs that surround it. The opposite can be said however for “Secret Canine Agent” which packs so many sleek and apprehensive sounding elements backed by the driving groove into its 1 minute 45 seconds that you’re just left begging for more.

We may only be a few days into the new year but already Viagra Boys have delivered a collection of evaluative and societally reflective hard hitting bangers that will be sure to soundtrack many peoples years, wherever it may take them. Their name is a reference to macho men being unable to perform when necessary, but these boys have certainly outperformed themselves on this album.

Phoebe Bridgers shares a cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”

Photo by Nona Limmen

In keeping with her annual tradition of releasing a charity track for the holidays, Phoebe Bridgers’ latest song is a cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”, released today on Dead Oceans. 

Produced by Tony Berg, Ethan Gruska and Phoebe, and accompanied solely byEthanon piano, the beautiful, melancholy rendition of Haggard’s 1974 track is a fitting end to a volatile year. Last year, Bridgers’ holiday single benefited Planned Parenthood. This year, proceeds from sales and streams of “If We Make It Through December” will go directly to Downtown Women’s Center, an organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women.

Bridgers released an EP “Copycat Killer” – a collaboration with Grammy-winning arranger and string player Rob Moose – last week. Punisher, her second solo album was named an instant classic, read our full review of it here.

Listen to the new cover below.

Kurt Vile announces new EP ‘Speed, Sound, Lonely KV’

Kurt Vile has announced a new EP ‘Speed, Sound, Lonely KV’ which features a cover of John Prine and ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement and two new originals.

Recorded in parts over 4 years Vile said this about the new EP “John Prine was my hero for a long time when he came into the butcher shoppe to recut one of his deepest classics with me and, man, I was floating and flying and i couldn’t hear anything he told me while he was there till after he was gone for the night. speaking of John talkin to me, well, his songs, they speak to my soul. that’s the real reason I picked them to play.”

The EP is set to be released on October 2nd with physical copies coming on January 15th. Pre-order here.

1. Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness
2. Gone Girl
3. Dandelions
4. How Lucky with John Prine
5. Pearls

He also released new single “How Lucky” which features John Prine. Listen to new track below.

Orville Peck announces new ‘Show Pony’ EP

Photo for GQ

Orville Peck has announced a new EP titled ‘Show Pony’ set to be released on June 12th via Columbia Records. He also released a new single ‘No Glory In The West’ and accompanying music video. The EP will also feature ‘Summertime’ which Peck released earlier in the year. This is the first full body of work from the masked indie-country star since last years debut album ‘Pony’.

Watch the new music video below!

Tracklist:

  • 1 Summertime
  • 2 No Glory in the West
  • 3 Drive Me, Crazy
  • 4 Kids
  • 5 Legends Never Die
  • 6 Fancy