THE WEATHER STATION: Ignorance (Fat Possum)
Verdict: Dispels the clouds
BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD: For The First Time (Ninja Tune)
Verdict: Roller-coaster debut
THE BAND: Stage Fright (Capitol)
Verdict: Rock standard revisited
Tamara Lindeman was a promising actress before she turned seriously to music 12 years ago.
Using the stage name Tamara Hope, she played Queen Elizabeth I in an HBO movie before taking the lead role in the Canadian-Australian drama series Guinevere Jones. Breakthrough awards from the film world duly came her way.
But success on screen didn’t feel quite right to her. Lindeman sensed that music would allow her to be more creative, so she assumed another alias — The Weather Station — and began releasing folkish, singer-songwriter records.
Tamara Lindeman (pictured) was a promising actress before she turned seriously to music and assumed another alias — The Weather Station
Her fifth album, Ignorance, fully vindicates that decision to switch lanes… except it isn’t exactly a folk record.
The Toronto-based singer, 36, is often compared to her fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. And, like Joni, she uses her acoustic roots as a springboard to explore other styles. On Ignorance, that means jazz, electronica and sophisticated, hi-fidelity pop.
At its boldest, there are parallels here with 1980s art-rockers Talk Talk, with a nod to Kate Bush. At their most accessible, her songs are closer to Fleetwood Mac.
Ignorance features a number of firsts for Lindeman. It’s the first time she has written on piano rather than guitar, and it’s her first album for Mississippi independent label Fat Possum.
Originally an outlet for little-known Delta bluesmen and southern soul reissues, the label is now also home to younger, indie-orientated acts — and an ideal base for The Weather Station’s mix of old and new.
Lindeman grounds her songs in solid rhythms.
She finished Ignorance in 2019, before any lockdowns took hold, and her tender, thistledown voice benefits hugely from the presence of a full backing band: drummer Kieran Adams and bassist Ben Whiteley supply the sturdy foundations; a revolving cast of guest musicians add the virtuoso flourishes.
The first half of the record is up-tempo; the ballads arrive later on. There are strings, piano, improvised sax breaks and hypnotic beats on Robber. Atlantic, about a ‘blood-red’ ocean sunset, features nagging, disco-like guitar. Tried To Tell You, which offers romantic counsel to a friend, is catchy enough to be a hit single.
Tamara’s songwriting is cleverly nuanced. Ignorance is ostensibly a break-up album, and it works perfectly well on that level. But she also uses heartache as a metaphor for wider, environmental woes, pulling off an ambitious sleight of hand with aplomb.
Her relationship status could best be described as complicated on Trust. Set in a divorce court, the song presents ‘crumpled petals and misshapen heads of reeds and rushes’ as evidence of irreconcilable differences.
On Tried To Tell You, she admits to being ‘as useless as a tree in a city park, standing as a symbol of what we’ve blown apart’.
At times, it all feels a little too fragile. Parking Lot is about being unable to play a gig after being entranced by a bird alighting on a nearby rooftop.
It would sound twee were it not for the galloping beats and piano motifs that push the song close to vintage Fleetwood Mac. As with a lot of what’s on offer, the former actress strikes a fine balance. It’s the part she was born to play.
There’s no shortage of ideas on the first album by boy-girl septet Black Country, New Road.
Originally from Cambridge, the band, all in their early 20s, plucked their name from the internet, and paid their dues playing regular gigs at South London venue The Windmill.
Their debut is a helter-skelter ride that incorporates ear-splitting guitar rock, progressive jazz and Jewish klezmer music. Nothing is out of bounds.
Black Country, New Road, who are originally from Cambridge, plucked their name from the internet
For The First Time contains just six tracks, one an instrumental, but there’s plenty to chew on. Science Fair is an unholy racket, but there is quiet reflection amid the clamour.
Track X is punctuated by woozy sax, soft vocal harmonies and the violin of Guildhall-trained band member Georgia Ellery.
Singer Isaac Wood is also capable of a neat turn of phrase in the sardonic style of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker. On Science Fair, he’s ‘still living with my mother, as I move from one micro-influencer to another’.
Sunglasses references NutriBullets, Kanye West and ‘the best new six-part Danish crime drama’. Closing track Opus is typical.
A fiery finale, it contains one of the album’s two allusions to Bruce Springsteen, with Wood singing of wheeling down Thunder Road. This being the UK suburbs rather than New Jersey, the couple escaping smalltown life are doing so by pushbike rather than The Boss’s Chevrolet.
A scattergun debut — but an inspired one.
First released in 1970, The Band’s third album came about after an unsuccessful bid to play a gig for the people of Woodstock, who were seeing their sleepy town overrun by tourists following 1969’s Woodstock Festival in nearby Bethel.
The locals turned down the group’s peace offering, so the Canadian-American quintet quietly made a record in the local playhouse instead.
The result was Stage Fright, now expanded and repackaged as a vinyl LP (£18), double CD (£11) and five-disc box set (£134).
The Band’s third album came about after an unsuccessful bid to play a gig for the people of Woodstock
Engineered by Todd Rundgren, Stage Fright felt more embittered than its two predecessors, but its country-blues songs showcased some superb vocal interplay.
Guitarist Robbie Robertson has also changed the old running order.
Stage Fright now opens with the upbeat W.S. Walcott Medicine Show, giving the new edit greater impetus, though the bonus tracks are patchy — the impromptu hotel jams should be avoided, but a London live show from 1971 is dazzling.
Rod plays cupid for Valentine’s day
Rod Stewart has put together a candlelight-ready playlist of his best love songs
Ahead of Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Rod Stewart has put together a candlelight-ready playlist of his best love songs.
Out today, the 16-track digital album, Cupid, reiterates his prowess as one of our great interpretative singers.
It also contains a batch of rarities being streamed for the first time. Faith Of The Heart is a blustery but enjoyable Diane Warren power ballad, and One Night a dewy-eyed country tune once sung by Kenny Rogers.
Rod, right, also offers a slick revamp of Careless With Our Love, a Johnnie Taylor soul hit inspired by Billy Paul’s Me & Mrs Jones.
Alice Cooper turned 73 last week, but the godfather of shock rock still has energy to burn.
Written with the musicians behind his classic Killer and School’s Out albums, new single Social Debris is a robust, three-minute taster for forthcoming LP Detroit Stories. ‘Our band didn’t fit in with any scene,’ he says. ‘We were outsiders — the social debris.’
And London-based singer-songwriter Delilah Montagu rakes over the embers of a fading relationship on new single This Is Not A Love Song, title track of her latest EP.
Montagu, 22, sang with DJ Black Coffee at Lady Gaga’s One World: Together At Home concert last April, and she multi-tracks her own voice on a subtle but hypnotic pop-soul number.
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