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Music

Album of the Week: The Weather Station's hauntingly beautiful 'How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars'

@notmyyaztattoo
The Weather Station - 'How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars'
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Calling all modern dancers, woodland sad-girls, and ethereal witches who love wistfully staring at large bodies of water: I have found your new favourite album. I need you to put aside your vintage Regina Spektor and Taylor Swift Folklore. You don’t need them here.

Coming back after their critically acclaimed 2021 album Ignorance, Canadian experimental folk band are back with a grounded, lullaby-esque no-skip. Intended to be heard as a companion piece to Ignorance, this album matches their last thematically, adding to the story it tells with vulnerability and freshness. 

How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars was written in the same fruitful winter of songwriting that produced Ignorance. However, it features the songs that Tamara Lindeman felt were too internal and too soft to fit on the album she had envisioned when Ignorance came to be. This could be why rather than feeling redundant, listening to How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars feels like peeling back the layers to discover hidden treasures. This whole album offers a fragile sensitivity and rawness best consumed on long drives and rainy days.

“I had no idea if I wanted anyone to ever hear these songs,” Lindeman says of what’s now become their fifth album, “but I also felt like they were the best songs I’d ever written, and I wanted to record them, to document them in some way.”

Recorded live in just three days, there’s a particularly human quality that you can clearly hear in tracks like ‘Endless Time’, ‘Ignorance’, and ‘Sway’, where the vocals layer on the instrumentation for a chilling presence—almost like you can feel her voice in the room with you.

Speaking of vocals, there are a few gorgeous moments throughout the album where harmonies and companion vocals are brought in by pianist and flautist Ryan Driver, serving to break up the angelic, feathery tones from Tamara Lindeman. ‘To Talk About’, ‘Sleight Of Hand’, and ‘Sway’ offer tastes of this, and the contrast brings an elemental balance, like earth and air meeting in yearning almost-touch. 

This floaty yet grounded quality, especially through the subtle use of saxophone, clarinet, flute, and upright bass, circles near the sounds of Sia’s early work, A Fine Frenzy, Florence and the Machine, and PJ Harvey. But even so, none of these acts feel exactly the same as the spark created within How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars.

With Christine Bougie on guitar and lap steel, Karen Ng on saxophone and clarinet, Ben Whiteley on upright bass, Tania Gill on wurlitzer, rhodes, and pianet, and Ryan Driver on piano and flute, the band is comprised of some of Toronto’s best jazz and improvisation players. This also marked Lindeman’s first time playing in a women-majority band. About this experience, she says, “wasn’t intentional, but it changed the atmosphere in a profound way. From the moment we first played together, I felt an immense sense of calm and trust in this band.”

Although this slowed-down, stripped-bare album may have some people itching to pick up the pace, I will be the first to recognise that this impulse misses the point. With Ignorance as a companion, The Weather Station have anticipated that need before the requests could even roll in, giving license for How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars to feel even more like a success.

To drive the point home even further, the record features no drums or percussion of any kind, leaving the songs to play with silence and space in a way that’s both cinematic and meditative all at once. Songs like ‘Stars’ and ‘Song’, come to mind with this, but the unique quality can be spotted pretty much anywhere on the album.

How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is an album to listen to when the skies go overcast. When you’re going through a for-the-best-but-it-still-hurts breakup. When you’re watching the sunset over your favourite city. It’s an album to put on in the bathtub or while you read your tarot cards with a cup of tea in hand. There’s emotion and care poured into it, and it’s simply addictive.

The Weather Station’s new album How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is out now.