Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
This music stuff sure can be serious business sometimes. When Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon secluded himself in an isolated cabin for a winter to deal with the break-up of a band and a relationship, he produced one of the most (rightfully) lauded releases of 2008. For Emma, Forever Ago was an aching, almost desperate catharsis—a much-needed exorcism of love and self lost. With her group The Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman makes a similar attempt at hiding and healing on the new debut full-length, The Line.
Armed with a banjo and a broken heart, Lindeman (together with the rest of the band, Jack Donovan, Simon Borer, Dwight Schenk, and D. Alex Meeks) creates a stand-still atmosphere of Appalachian-inspired folk that mirrors the quiet, ambiguous anguish that drove this relative musical rookie to create The Line. Unlike Bon Iver’s lush, layered, and more structured (albeit still lo-fi) arrangements, The Weather Station’s approach is one of minimalism so extreme that it borders on creepy. But when more elements are added, the intensity drops instead of heightens, and the otherwise powerful songs get trapped in their own instrumental dead-ends. In the dark and silence, Lindeman’s voice is beautifully haunting, ringing with the vulnerability of an early, less messed-up Cat Power, and in glimpses, with the dynamics of Ms. dare-to-compare Joni Mitchell (“The Hunter”). “East” is especially arresting; a carry-over from 2008’s EP of the same name, it’s the closest thing to a pop song found here (and a really good one at that), and the closest that Lindeman gets to sounding wistful and nostalgic instead of mournful.
Like an old journal you never hoped to come across again, eventually, reliving such an outpouring of emotion could possibly be a tiny bit cringe-worthy. It’s not an uplifting listen, but The Line is mesmerizing and at times, quite moving. At the very least, it’s a sure companion for nursing a case of the sad-sack blues. Mostly, it’s an unapologetically sad and disarmingly honest document of one’s personal despair; the stuff memorable albums are made of.