When North Carolina based record label Paradise of Bachelors announced they would be handling the American release of Tamara Lindeman’s new record Loyalty with her band The Weather Station, they teased fans with beautiful album artwork as well as the back sleeve of the LP which included the lyrics in their entirety.
This may have been the shrewdest marketing decision I’ve seen from any label in a long time. Having Lindeman’s lyrics precede the record itself shows the label knows exactly what they gained in signing her: a lyricist with few equals.
To refer to her as just a musician seems limiting in that it misses the power her words have even when rendered plainly in size twelve font on the back of an LP. Her songs feature an interplay between poetry and music rare even in the world of ever self-conscious singer-songwriters. With just a handful of lines Tamara addresses weighty existential dilemmas that other artists would struggle to cover even across an entire album.
Knowing her careful attention to details, it comes as a bit of a surprise that an album entitled Loyalty would feature songs like “Personal Eclipse” that express such a deep sense of disconnect like “Lately I find myself lonely - I wouldn’t have called it that before. I always took it as a comfort - what all the distance was for.”
In fact many of the songs deal with themes of distance and nothingness, a lack of touch and silence. The idea of loyalty demands some kind of relationship, something for the devotee, to be devoted to. It’s strange that these songs find Lindeman on the road far from friends or listening to the bedroom recordings of a lover who has passed away. There is distance both geographically and physically between the singer and anything she could be loyal to.
However, this absence is what clarifies where her loyalties ought to lie. Having removed herself to distant places like Montmagny and Nebraska it becomes easier to assess what is worth her loyalty. The ability to hold polar opposites in tension without having them break her has always been one of Lindeman’s greatest strengths as a songwriter. “Floodplain” friends simultaneously advise her “don’t move too fast” and “don’t let it pass you by” and Lindeman seems fully capable of doing both.
By the end of Loyalty, Lindeman has come to terms with the idea that distance and intimacy are often not very far apart. The closing track, “At Full Height,” embodies this as it finds Lindeman proclaiming her loyalty to a lover and finding peace with the paradox that “I don’t even know him- but he’s mine.”
The brilliance of Loyalty lies in its ability to bring the listener close, to provide a glimpse of Lindeman’s world while maintaining enough distance to give the captured moments an intriguing sense of intimacy. Like she sings in “Floodplain,” the newest release from The Weather Station is an experiment in “seeing double.”