As Tamara Lindeman (better known as The Weather Station) wraps her North American tour this month opening for the Great Lake Swimmers, she says it’s difficult to pinpoint the best concert she has attended.
“It’s hard to choose, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Constantines,” says Lindeman.
The Constantines show she’s talking about was part of the Field Trip – a two-day outdoor festival at a historic Toronto venue, Fort York and Garrison Common, in June 2014. It was a reunion for the critically acclaimed band from Guelph, Ontario, that released its first album on the SubPop label in 2001 and broke up in 2010.
“It was emotional,” Lindeman recalls. “Five men in their late 30s playing music they wrote in their early 20s that still has so much to say and still feels relevant. They played so well, and it was an incredibly good show – powerful, heavy, concise.
“But it felt important somehow, seeing these thoughtful, soft-spoken men who have children and jobs and different lives, pick up their guitars and play this very heavy, very loud music in such a free and almost desperate way – almost as though it was more important now than it was then. It felt really meaningful and beautiful, and fleeting somehow, too. I saw a lot of really tough dudes I know cry at that show.”
The Weather Station’s own brilliant new album. Loyalty, which is filled with warm, melodic personal songs of love and loss, may also cause a few listeners to shed a tear or two. Loyalty was recorded with Afie Jurvanen, who records under the name Bahamas, and producer/sound engineer Robbie Lackritz, who has worked with Feist.
Lindeman sees the album as “subtle, thoughtful and nuanced,” she says. “I think it talks about things that don’t usually make their way into songs. I think it shines a light on important pieces of experience that I haven’t heard anyone sing about. I also hoped to make a classic, beautiful record that would stand the test of time, that could be a companion for years to come.”
Lindeman says she tries to convey the mundane moments of life. “I try to convey the importance of the fleeting moment, thought, or feeling you may not have noticed. That is what pulls me forward.”
She plays guitars, piano, organ, vibraphone, and banjo on the album, which was recorded at La Frette Studios in La Frette-sur-Seine, France. Her lyrics are very poetic. In the song “Personal Eclipse,” she evokes images of Nebraska’s dry grass – “grey to distant blue” – and memories of “the smoky cups of coffee at the Continental Divide, mesas strange and red and snowy.”
Too many talented female singer-songwriters are compared to Joni Mitchell, but, if you close your eyes and listen to Loyalty’s opening song “Way It Is, Way It Could Be,” and the title song, Lindeman’s vocals bring to mind a young Joni singing on the Alberta plains. Her voice haunts – like Joni’s did – and draws you in to every word.
Another female Canadian singer-songwriter, though, influenced Tamara most at a concert on Toronto Island in 2009. It was a performance at the Poor Pilgrim festival by Jennifer Castle, a Toronto-born musician who, like Lindeman, uses a wide palette of colors and textures in her music.
“It was at a church,” Lindeman recalls. “The power went out, and she performed to about 100 people in total darkness without amplification, while lightning flashed in the stained-glass windows.
“In every way, Jennifer Castle is a badass,” she goes on. “That’s the first thing you have to know about her. She’s fearless as a performer. She’s intensely vulnerable and intensely real, but in a very clear and understated way. She lives her own reality on stage. That is a powerful thing to witness, because her reality is so very much her own, and it is so natural to her – yet so unusual at the same time. That is something I aspire to or understand. I seek to be fully present in performance in a way that is difficult in life, let alone on stage. And I realized, from watching Jennifer Castle play, that was something to aspire to.”