By Marvin Villanueva, Dec. 6, 2022
Art pop singer-songwriter Weyes Blood returns with “And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow,” the poetic second installment of her proposed three album trilogy.
Natalie Mering, the woman behind the music who uses the moniker Weyes Blood, announced on social media that her last album, 2019’s “Titanic Rising,” was only the start of a special trilogy and each album released will pick up right where the other left off. Released on Nov. 18 through Sub Pop Records, “And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow,” is a gorgeous display of baroque pop and soft rock that expands on Mering’s past sonic stylings.
While “Titanic Rising,” was about the search for love in a crumbling world, Mering’s new record meets listeners in the aftermath of this search. And within the context of the COVID-19 lockdown, Mering’s lyrical landscapes feel universal as everyone dealt with the same global conditions.
The first track, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” exemplifies this idea perfectly as Mering grapples with her isolation but recognizes that she is not alone in this feeling. Through wistful vocals under a delicate piano, Mering provides a critique on the digital world, how it’s changed our personalities and how this feeling and every sense of unease with it is interconnected within everyone.
This feeling is epitomized throughout the song as the hymnal backing vocals grow into a finale that descends into the sounds of angelic strings. It’s a brilliant opener to a record this sonically grand.
The next song, “Children of the Empire,” expands on the orchestral instrumentation of the record and structures Mering’s subdued vocals under layers of layers of tempo-building, dynamic strings.
On this track, Mering attempts to create a new life for herself after past mistakes as she sings: “Trying to break away / from the mess we made / Oh, we don’t have time anymore to be afraid.” In a song that is this tonally uncertain, tambourines and synths compliment the hopeful, yet realistic nature of the track.
While most of the songs reach a runtime of more than five minutes long, Mering manages to leave no second unused. Every minute of this album is filled with a lush orchestral sound and makes sure the record stays pristine within its production.
The longest track on the record, “God Turn Me Into a Flower,” proves this as Mering creates a sonic odyssey that’s production feats are as monumental as its themes. Relating to the Greek myth of Narcissus, Mering told Pitchfork in an interview that capitalism has bred narcissism into humanity and that “the greatest hubris of all is just thinking that there’s just gonna be something better, and never working on yourself.”
This is why Mering pleads to be turned into a flower within the song, as she aims to match the plant’s vulnerability and become more in touch with herself. Gentle synths cascade throughout the track and end with a frenzy of animalistic chirp sounds reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s “Ostrich & Chirping.”
“Twin Flame” however, is the only low point on the album. The lounge singer styling of the track is overshadowed by an ‘80s new-wave percussive beat that distracts from the entire song. Even as Mering reaches new heights vocally on this number by excellently hitting the highest notes on the record within the chorus, it cannot even be appreciated as the song is suffocated within this repetitive drum loop. It’s frustratingly disappointing.
“The Worst Is Done” shines after this slump by expertly crafting a musical juxtaposition. While lyrically depressing, it’s the record’s most upbeat tune as an array of synths provide a seemingly endless groove. Mering’s woes with lockdown and its effects on the public reentering normalcy are presented as she effervescently sings “They say the worst is done / But I think it’s only just begun / I hear it from everyone / We’re all so cracked after that.”
The album’s final song, “A Given Thing,” closes the record’s main thesis within this trilogy. A searing ballad that wrestles with the pains and joys of nostalgia, Mering solidifies her need for an everlasting love even as she becomes more self-assured. Under a tranquil piano melody in a minor key, the song gracefully bookmarks the record and seemingly sets the stage for Mering’s trilogy finale.
Gorgeously ethereal and elegantly structured, “And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow” is a quintessential record for humanity’s post-pandemic future and showcases Mering as one of the most talented songwriters in music today.
Feature image courtesy of Jackson Gray
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