Weyes Blood released her last album just before the onset and upheaval of COVID, isolation and lockdown. This probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. Titanic Rising was an album full of intrigue and promise, harking back to a classic sound of the 70s and 80s folk-pop, and Natalie Mering, A.K.A Weyes Blood, was making a strong case as a modern day Carole King, a Carly Simon for the Twitter generation, if you will. And then, as soon as the new found exposure and success took hold, everything stopped.
“Living in the wake of overwhelming changes”, as she croons on the album opener, ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’, and the narrative of isolation and burgeoning but stunted success runs deep through Weyes Blood’s newest release, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow.
On the latest release, Mering’s enveloping, contralto voice is the centrepiece of a sprawling, more experimental collection of tracks compared with its predecessor. There are moments that promise the classic-sounding, folk-pop which marked the best of Titanic Rising, but these moments are few and far between. The longer the album plays out, the more it feels like Mering is intentionally subverting her natural pop-sensibility to travel down odd melodic avenues and song arrangements. This is maybe most apparent in first two singles released from the album. ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’ and ‘Grapevine’ both clock in at over 6 minutes and 5 minutes respectively, both start with intrigue and expectation, both build into swirling, expansive anthems, and both meander to anti-climactic endings.
‘Children of the Empire’, ‘Hearts Aglow’ and ‘The Worst Is Done’ seem to me much more punchy and memorable single choices and are the stand out tracks on the album. These tracks still reach to a lengthy 6 minutes and could reasonably be edited down by a minute or two, but at least have catchy choruses and leave a more lasting impression, akin to the best of Titanic Rising.
Latest single ‘God Turn Me Into To a Flower’, which follows ‘Grapevine’ on the album, is a slow-burning votive candle; hymn-like, gothic and majestic. The song builds into a wall of atmospheric sounds, but honestly I found myself a bit bored. The tempo was slow, bordering on self-indulgent and I was struggling for something to keep my interest. The album ends with ‘It’s a Given Thing’, slowly unravelling but again frustratingly trudging and aimless. At times it sounds as if Mering is improvising, searching for a melody mid-song without ever locking one down.
I can hear in this album the same promise that I heard in Titanic Rising, the same beautiful and resplendent voice and the same searching and introspective lyricism, but not enough of the songs stand up on their own merit, and I think the album overall is bloated and over-indulgence in too many places.