Review: The Weather Station - The Line
Label: self-released (distributed by Fontana North/Universal)
Released: April 28, 2009
Terms like lo-fi and DIY have become quite commonplace these days. Unfortunately, these terms are often applied to music that could also be described as contrived or just rotten. The Weather Station is certainly the epitome of both of those common terms, but not of the descriptions which often destroy them.
The Weather Station is both a band and not a band at the same time. Really, it is self-taught multi-instrumentalist Tamara Lindeman with a revolving cast of characters (including her live band). Recorded in bedrooms and living rooms rather than studios and on equipment Lindeman was learning how to use as she went, the album is raw and often quite sparse. However, it's rawness doesn't overshadow a strong sense of both tradition and experimentation. On one hand, The Line is folk music as it's been played in living rooms and on front porches for decades. It captures the primal need we have to make music, to explore and expose the darkness. The album is sparse and dark to the point of being difficult, yet is carried by the honesty of those very same qualities.
At the same time, Lindeman's arrangements push the limits of what folk music can be. Droning strings, Moog, household items and "found sound" all contribute to its boldness and create tension between what folk music has long been and what it could become. As much as she pushes these songs to their limits, they are still as natural as being uncomfortable in one's own skin. Her innovations are not merely a veneer on top of traditional folk either. Instead, experimentation and tradition intertwine throughout the album to create something entirely unique.
The Line is by no means an easy listen, but then neither is any true human story. At times, it is incredibly low-key and then something, a guitar, some random noise, will pierce the lull. Likewise, there is anger and pain here, but beauty also pierces through that. It is both the confusion and the affirmation of being alive.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.