Review: Weyes Blood’s new album proves she’s an expert on life’s shades of gray
“And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” provides an existential follow-up to the artist’s 2019 album “Titanic Rising.”
Dec 6, 2022
Weyes Blood, also known as Natalie Mering, delivers a bittersweet and honest examination of what it feels like to be a human in the modern age. Mering establishes a mystical instrumentation in her newest album, “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow.” Her songwriting, however, keeps the album wholly grounded in the tangibility of humanity.
“It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” opens the album with sparkly, cascading, dissonant strings that conjure images of otherworldly beings. But this evocative melody is soon overtaken by a simple drumline and piano chords, over which Mering sings the first verse: “Sitting at this party / Wondering if anyone knows me / Really sees who I am / Oh, it’s been so long since I felt really known.” She illustrates the universality of loneliness in the chorus of the song: “Oh, it’s not just me, it’s not just me / It’s not just me, it’s everybody (Everybody).”
“It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” comments on how social media is sold to us on the idea that it fosters community. Indeed, it does keep the world interconnected but in a suffocating way. Mering further comments on this paradox in the music video for the song, where she dances in a vaudevillian style in a grand theater while a cartoon smartphone tries to upstage her. The smartphone also literally feeds on people, lapping at the spilled blood of dead ensemble members.
Even with the clear visualization of the toll social media and technology takes on the mental health of individuals, Mering does not take on an entirely pessimistic view of the modern age. In the third verse she sings, “Mercy is the only / Cure for being so lonely / Has a time ever been more revealing / That the people are hurting? / Oh, it’s not just me / I guess it’s everybody / Yes, we all bleed the same way.” Mering recognizes that people are not as alone as they think.
Mering continues to show how opposite things clash but also cooperate in “The Worst is Done.” She describes the need for relief and hope after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions: “But they say the worst is done / And it’s time to go out and see everyone / 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.” She shows that there is a discrepancy between what everyone is saying about the end of lockdown and what has actually occurred. An era of normalcy was promised, but it has not returned. Instead, Mering notes, we’ve all seemed to “lean into hyper-isolation” despite our collective desire for human connection after years of forced solitude.
This lyrical preoccupation with contradiction is supported by the instrumentation of the album as well. The traditional sound of classical strings are featured in multiple tracks, such as “And in the Darkness” which is a 13-second instrumental interlude consisting of just two violins and a cello. But, Mering also draws upon her past work in the underground noise music scene to sculpt futuristic soundscapes. For example, the last two and a half minutes of “God Turn Me Into a Flower” feature her vocalizing on top of various noises like a reverberating bird whistle and a warm, electronic buzzing. She explores how the past both blends into and diverges from the present, creating a sonic narrative that enhances the meaning of her lyrics.
Everything about this album circles back to Mering’s fascination with the double-edged nature of things. Nothing is black and white — everything is made up of shades of gray. The final message that is delivered in this album is quite concrete. In the concluding track of “A Given Thing,” she warbles, “Oh, it flows out of you / It flows out of me, too / And I can’t tell where you end / Oh, and where I begin / Oh, it’s a given thing / Love everlasting.” Even in the midst of the chaos and loneliness of living, Mering highlights that love will always be a given.
Contact Sandy Battulga at [email protected]