The Weather Station’s album How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars simmers with the very personal 70’s folk music purity that (long ago!) required vinyl-grooved patience but also rewarded with counter-culture dividends of introspection, intense beauty, and a fierce devotion to any artist who wrote songs about looking into the magnitude of the melodic heavens, and confessed of being, “for what it’s worth”, hopelessly human.
In a general way, this album can be compared to Joni Mitchell’s piano laced mellow songs on her album Blue that sing with a desperate melodic hope to touch an always distant horizon.
Now, to be fair, this new record is a far cry from the breezy folk of the song ‘Thirty’ on the fourth self-titled album. And it certainly loses the big percussion jazzy sound of her last album, Ignorance, which other than being quite a brilliant recording, also echoed the continuous complexity of Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love. Rather, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars finds its melodies in the more gentle (but still deep) trenches of the human heart. Canadian Tamara Lindeman (the aka behind her non de plume Weather Station) said in her press release of this album: “It’s ungrounded and diaphanous. It floats and it drifts”.
Well (to get literary!), let’s just quote Joseph Conrad on his journey into a Heart Of Darkness, with the note Marlow found that simply said, “Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously”. But, thankfully, there’s no “horror” here. There’s just a holy glimpse into an introspective soul that is seldom clear but is always (almost!) profoundly graced with mumbled uncertainties that float on anchored Helium melodies.
There’s so much beauty here: ‘March’ begins with voice and piano. And then the ephemeral sound is blessed with a sympathetic sax that helps to purify the passion. The next song, ‘Endless Time’, stems from a visit to the certainty of a small fruit stand in Toronto, and in true symbolic biblical fashion, led to awareness of an uncertain (and soon to be pandemic) future. Once again, it’s a piano and voice stark glance into a ghostly haze, whose melody is elusive like an unmarked family gravestone. And ‘Taught’ continues the austere gentle piano voiced passion that quietly oozes with deep water current and a sax swirled memory.
It’s just an idea, but this music certainly echoes the sound of Norma Winstone’s ECM album Distances, that manages to touch folk, jazz, and the outer circumstance of everything else – plus a sublime cover of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes The Flood’.
And How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars will also appeal to the haunting acoustic music of the equally profound gothic folk of Marissa Nadler.
That said, these are simply attired songs, that given patient time, seep into a beautiful melodic mantra of a rather immense moment. Odd – the song ‘Ignorance’ was the title of her last album, but makes its debut here, with words that sing, “I drag every river for meaning, scraping my hand on every ceiling”. Indeed, the lyrics are imbued with personal words and caustic symbolism worthy of Paul Simon’s poetic “subway walls”. Ditto for ‘To Talk About’ which features a duet with Ryan Driver, who by the way, propels the album with his gentle piano and flute playing. And ‘Stars’ even professes more pathos as Tamara confesses, “I swear to God this world will break my heart”.
And, the short-titled subtle passion continues: ‘Song’ swells with quiet drama. And ‘Sway’, possesses the beautiful words, “When you sway, I sway, and if could love you more I have not yet found a way”. That’s a lovely thing to sing in our pandemic and a sad Ukrainian world. Perhaps, it echoes the pure emotion of (the great) John Martyn in the midst of one of his serene songs on that blessed second side of Grace And Danger. Then, ‘Sleight Of Hand’ juxtaposes that hope with words of broken love.
This is intensely human music.
It ends with the John Southworth (almost) late night bar serenade, ‘Loving You’ that softly “floats and drifts” into the “ungrounded and diaphanous” final grooves that, somehow, manage to light a votive candle to keep alight all that is contained within the odd confines of a lyrical ‘Endless Time’. As said, this is just a patient glimpse into an introspective soul that is always (and almost!) profoundly graced with those mumbled uncertainties that float on those still anchored Helium melodies.
Truly, there is no “heart of darkness” here. Rather, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is a much different (and to quote Tim Buckley) “Happy Sad” journey. So, indeed, as Joseph Conrad wrote, “Wood for you”, as these songs, do indeed, burn with quiet intensity. And, “Hurry up”, with a warm welcome into this patient vinyl groove. But, of course, it needs to be said, “Approach cautiously”, as is always the case with the music of any artist who writes songs about looking into the magnitude of a melodic heaven, and, thankfully, still possesses “a heart of gold” and is willing to confess of being, (“for what it’s worth” once again) hopelessly human.
Artist’s website: http://www.theweatherstation.net/
‘Endless Time’ – official video: