How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars is a technically proficient album that offers easy listening but also feels like a postscript to the superior Ignorance.
The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman and co. make a quick return with How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars, a companion piece to 2021’s Ignorance. That album was one written and crafted from a place of desperation, a longing for mercy in a world of unrelenting pain and struggle. It was a fully-realized, heterogenous album that sought out new sonic territory and expanded the palette that had previously defined the band. This latest record, then, is a more reflective work, one revisiting past destinations from a fresh perspective, and steeped more in the piano-heavy sounds that marked the group’s early records.
Lindeman’s voice has always been a singularity in the folk scene, both soft and volatile, floating around tracks like a feather, in step with some of the band’s more experimental tendencies. But this time out, there’s less of a panic in her voice; where the last record largely focused its lyrical content on climate change concerns and the havoc that the pandemic inflicted upon society, How Is It is a more assertive in its musings, Lindeman’s eye turned less toward existential doom and more honed on problems that can be resolved within her lifetime. The instrumentation is likewise shifted in character here, sparser than on the previous record, abandoning the full band sound that so recently felt like an apex in the band’s vision. It’s certainly not a bad pivot per se, and the piano does provide welcomely gentle accompaniment, but there’s the feeling that this effort is a step backward for The Weather Station, or else a minor product. There’s actually an interesting dissonance built from the scaled-back sound and the lyrical work here, but that also isn’t explored conceptually enough to lend much depth. The album is at least necessarily brief, reasserting its nature as a supplement of sorts: a breezy but undercooked record is vastly preferable to one saddled with significant bloat, and the brevity on How Is It is in some ways refreshing given the sea of wildly uninteresting long records from artists in recent years.
Obviously, listeners can’t expect home runs with an artist’s every effort, but it’s notably tougher for a good record such as this one not to exist within the shadow of an excellent one when released in such proximity. Still, despite feeling more conceptually hamstrung and less ambitious relative to Ignorance, How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars, is still a technically proficient album that offers easy listening, which is no small compliment given how mightily major acts have struggled to achieve this baseline lately. And so, if this latest is destined to be regarded as a companion piece to The Weather Station’s heretofore career best, it’s at least an organic one, with Lindeman’s mastery leveraged toward the construction of a more optimistic postscript to Ignorance. Being tethered to that exceptional record doesn’t mean How Is It is any less worthy of its own, slightly muted, praise.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 1.