Unpopular advent 2021 – day 22

The Weather Station – ‘Trust’ from Ignorance

I’m gonna show my, ahem, ignorance now by telling you that I had not heard of The Weather Station until earlier this year. And although ‘Ignorance’ has apparently topped 2021 music charts here in the UK’s ‘Uncut’ magazine and over the Atlantic in ‘The New Yorker’ (but possibly not in ‘The Atlantic’) there is still a good chance it would have passed me by had it not been for a chance encounter on a friend’s Instagram feed, such is my relationship with The Media these days. Ah, the hilarious irony of writing over 20,000 words about the music I’ve enjoyed in 2021 and fretting about whether anyone will read them whilst simultaneously admitting that I DON’T READ ANYTHING ABOUT MUSIC myself and only heard a record because I tapped on a picture. Well heck, if the 21st Century is about anything then it is surely about hypocrisy and living in one’s own head, so fuck it, right?

Sorry. Getting sweary there. Should have limited that to when I wrote about Arab Strap. It isn’t becoming when contemplating The Weather Station or this very, very fine album that apparently is about singer songwriter Tamara Linderman’s meditation on The Climate Emergency. Sorry. Now I sound flippant. Even fucking flippant. Now Alistair, write out 1000 times “I Must Not Be Flippant About The Climate Emergency”. And no command-C, command-V. Lord, I hope Tamara Linderman has a sense of fucking humour. If she even reads this. Which I would rather doubt. I mean, if I’d topped the Best Music of 2021 lists in ‘The New Yorker’ and ‘Uncut’ (but possibly not ‘The Atlantic’ – does it even do a best music list? I forget…) I’d not be dirtying my hands with Unpopular blog nonsense.

All of which is by way of admitting that, as you may have suspected, I am not really sure what, or how, to write about ‘Ignorance’. My mind is kind of blank, struggling to come to an understanding perhaps of a theme so vast in its complexity and yet so simple in its ultimate meaning. That I’m gloriously, bewilderingly, in awe of a record that in some respects I should not really dig but which somehow has inveigled its way into my subconscious, thrilling me with a delicious darkness of tone and lightness of touch. It is a record that I was not expecting, and that of course is part of its appeal.

As with Maxine Funke’s ‘Seance’, ‘Ignorance’ has also had me familiarising myself with the previous Weather Station records. Yet strangely, whilst there is much about the folkie singer-songwriter vibe of previous albums I ought to enjoy, I have not found myself replaying those records and indeed have made judicious use of the ‘skip’ function. Perhaps had I heard them in original context I would have enjoyed them more, but listening in 2021 I admit I find them a little sterile, a touch too obvious and certainly lacking in the kind of ineffable otherness that ‘Ignorance’ is suffused with and which keeps drawing me back to it. And if ‘Seance’ sounds like a beautiful summation of Funke’s recordings over the space of the past 13 years, then ‘Ignorance’ is more like a sudden leap from the safety of well-worn paths into a universe that is altogether stranger than that previously inhabited. Less folk, more jazz. Certainly just that bit marvellously unhinged and off-kilter. Magically out of step with itself in the manner of This Is The Kit, perhaps.

Of course it is not immediately obvious that these songs might be meditations on a global crisis, and that is to Linderman’s credit. As with other songs and records that I have enjoyed in 2021 there is a necessary distancing from the central theme. These are songs that are successful attempts to couch fear, frustration, mistrust, hope and love into more personal, human scenarios that act as metaphor. Because as I say, the whole theme of humanity’s so far largely toxic relationship with the planet is so potentially complex yet ultimately simple that to address it in a direct manner through art is rather doomed to being read as either a shrill squawk of hysterical over-simplification or a profoundly dull extended scientific treatise. Or something akin to reading 20,000 words about someone’s favourite records.

The songs on ‘Ignorance’ then are touching and touched, none more so than the haunting ‘Trust’. It recalls Gravenhurst’s peerless song of the same title back in 2007 when it graced the equally superlative ‘The Western Lands’. Back then the much-missed Nick Talbot sang about how “trust is a hard thing to come by” and these days nothing has changed. Indeed if anything that sentiment has been amplified to an extraordinary degree, a seemingly critical element in the self-destructive make-up of 21st Century humanity’s relationship with itself, creating this polarised and fractured present. The Weather Station’s ‘Trust’ though is not so much about that dispiriting deterioration of trust as about the enormous, all-enveloping sense of release that falls upon the realisation that it has gone forever. It seems to be a song that is about endings and withdrawals, about generosity of spirit and the coming to terms with loss that only such generosity can bring. It is almost impossibly moving and if it is not exactly cheery then it is at least underpinned with a doomed delicacy that lands on us like petals from dying roses or ash flakes blown from distant forest fires.

So if I have sworn and conducted myself in an infuriatingly flippant manner at times here it is only because I ultimately lack the emotional and intellectual intelligence to adequately explain why ‘Ignorance’ is such a captivating record. But at least I fucking tried.

3 thoughts on “Unpopular advent 2021 – day 22

    1. Fucking pleased to hear that 🙂 I’ve also been enjoying ‘Building Society’. Nice to see Dunkeswell and Broadhembury in there, though disappointed not to see our wee estate in Stoke Canon not being featured 😉

      Like

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