Published May 12, 2015Loyalty is the album we've been waiting for from the Weather Station. Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman, the woman behind the project, has moved away from the introverted experimental banjo songs of her earliest recordings, like her 2009 debut The Line, and the folkier arrangements of 2011's lovely All Of It Was Mine, to embrace electric guitars, various vintage keyboard instruments (piano, Hammond, Wurlitzer, Rhodes), vibraphone and drums.
In fact, Loyalty — recorded last February in La Frette-sur-Seine in France with Bahamas' Afie Jurvanen and engineer Robbie Lackritz (Bahamas, Feist) — flirts with pop and jazz forms, bursting into spurts of levity and flurried movement amidst still, reflective periods. But it just flirts; Loyalty is undeniably a folk album, underpinned by Lindeman's finger-picked guitar, spacious piano and banjo, her husky, timeless voice having taken on a new maturity, every word now clearly articulated.
It's a driving album — not in a rock-out-and-crank-the-tunes sense, but it's about journeying. Lindeman is behind the wheel in a number of the songs, though they never are merely about driving. Opener "Way It Is, Way It Could Be" is exhilarating, fast and textured, Lindeman's vocals suddenly leaping: Has she hit the dogs on the highway she fears she has, or not? Are the people in the car a couple, or not? "Floodplain," conversational and brave, recalls Joni Mitchell, Jurvanen's drums somehow standing in for windshield wipers on a rainy highway. "Personal Eclipse," meanwhile, is a slow-motion memory of a trip to California with her sister, of a time when Lindeman didn't experience loneliness the way she does now.
Some of the best songs on Loyalty don't involve travel: the jazzy "Shy Women," clearly the centerpiece, explores what goes unsaid between two women, feigning toughness and independence while the heavy-loaded ice-covered trees outside accrue pathetic fallacy; "Like Sisters" is the kind of sad, slow, confessional ballad usually reserved for love songs, but this time it's a troubled friendship being unpacked; "Tapes" meanwhile, is a beautiful elegy for Lindeman's first love, who gave her the gift of setting her on a musical path. (Paradise of Bachelors / Outside Music)