A much needed take on the times
Charlotte Grimwade
11:55 17th November 2022

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Natalie Mering is back redefining ethereal chamber pop with her latest album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow. Weyes Blood returns with ten tracks that cement Mering’s place within her self-curated genre of simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic soft indie rock. After the success of Titanic Rising back in 2019, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow confirms Mering’s position at the forefront of everything that’s exciting about post-pandemic music. 

The album starts with one of its best tracks, released as a single in September. ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’ confidently sets the tone for the musical metamorphosis to follow, asserting the surreally drifting yet emotionally charged tone typical of Mering’s music. Mering relishes in each dissonant chord. Every note feels consciously planned as synths and strings construct references to romantic horror and dystopia, in many ways reminiscent of artists such as Kate Bush. 

More ethereal and futuristic moments are contrasted by the opening of songs like ‘Grapevine’, which begins with a much more Joni Mitchell-inspired folk feel. Mering’s voice glides through different intervals, embodying a certain timeless quality. As in the rest of the album, initially simple instrumentation seamlessly flourishes into complex harmonies aided by synths and strings. 

There’s something incredibly cathartic, ethereal and spiritual about the sound Weyes Blood has constructed. Thick vocal harmonies create the echoes and ambience of being in an awe-inspiring cathedral of emotional contention and solitude. ‘God Turn Me Into a Flower’ and ‘In Holy Flux’ exemplify the pure simplicity capable of creating such a powerful emotional and musical effect. The first track’s combination of synths and vocals is magical, ending like a spiritual metamorphosis as birds chirp in the background. 

Mering’s wise alto voice is made for this kind of music. She grapples with emotional intensity on both an intimate and much wider scale. The impact of the past few years of Covid chaos and isolation flicker in and out, culminating in Mering’s dreamy soft rock portrayal of a semi-apocalyptic future world. As artists resorted back to nostalgia during the pandemic, Weyes Blood instead prioritised sentimentality with the aim of giving birth to a refreshingly modern yet timeless musical niche. At its core, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is about both individuals’ and society’s uncertainty following the peak of the pandemic. Mering succeeds in dealing with both micro and macro themes as she introspectively relates her deeply personal feelings to the universal experience of isolation and lockdowns. “We’ve all become strangers, even to ourselves” she sings, simultaneously redefining the sombre pop ballad whilst exploring what it means to write music in the context of the pandemic. 

"...providing an important sense of catharsis in the context of the past few years of uncertainty and social isolation."

As the album reaches its close, Mering reminds us of her ability to still encompass the classic attributes of soft indie rock with ‘The Worst Is Done’. The song has a catchy lilt as it looks somewhat hopefully to the future. Although it’s definitely much more certain as a track, hints of dissonance remind us that a fear of uncertainty still prevails throughout this album. 

Though And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow remains distinctly hopeful, there’s a certain sombre, sentimental quality that becomes more apparent in its second half. Mering wallows in every chord and lyric, reflected in the length of each track. There’s a notable emphasis on harmony and texture in this effective blend of modern music-making and the ethereal. 

Despite its universal charm and musical timelessness, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is time-specific, providing an important sense of catharsis in the context of the past few years of uncertainty and social isolation. It’s another resounding success for Weyes Blood. 

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is out Friday 18th November.

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