by Paul Newsom
Toronto singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman returns with an equally deft and personal album as her group’s prior efforts. The Weather Station’s previous forays into bluegrass, pop, folk and jazz shine through in turn on her newest record, whose musical tone meets the album cover’s dense-dark-hopeful vibe.
Global conflicts, relationship struggles and existential musings often comprise the lyrical body of any given song. As lilting keys anchor tracks, the singer drops lines like: “…all I can see today is black…those stars don’t guide you anywhere” (Marsh). Lindeman’s lyrics find an intriguing balance between unfiltered journal jot notes and considered poetic musings.
The support band – variously playing guitar, flute, sax, upright bass, clarinet, and more – sound lower in the mix than on previous records, yet no less important to the album. It is hard not to think of experimental jazz in the vein of Brad Mehldau when the woodwinds pipe in with critical emphasis on “Taught”. “Stars” is reminiscent of fellow Canadian Stan Rogers’s ballads, finding the singer proclaiming: “So overwhelmed by the beauty of the stars. How could I not be?” with stoic fervour. Even at the album’s most pained and lonely moments, its warm production upholds their sanctity.
“Song” finds Lindeman reflecting on songwriting itself as she considers: “…what I’d place inside, if I could bury light, in something I could write.” Not just light, but darkness, conflict, hope and pessimism ring out with startling clarity over the album’s course.
How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars? represents a poignant and measured entry in the growing catalogue of pandemic-era “personal” records. The Weather Station’s members are more than familiar with attunement to cultural moments, having focused their last effort on climate change with 2021’s “Ignorance.” One can only hope the group stays the course with comparably astute and re-listenable entries.
For fans of: Aimee Mann, Sibylle Baier, Cassandra Jenkins, Vashti Bunyan