Natalie Mering, perhaps better known as Weyes Blood, embodies the ethereal.
Combining sumptuous vocals with haunting orchestral compositions, the 34-year-old artist constructs a disarmingly eerie blend of baroque and chamber pop. In 2019, these otherworldly qualities complemented the existential dread explored on Titanic Rising, Mering’s fourth studio album and the first project in her album trilogy. Now, with the second offering in the trilogy, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, the singer-songwriter continues to unravel catastrophe, though with a slightly different effect.
Released Nov. 18, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow radiates an understated yet undeniable resolve. While Titanic Rising envisioned waves of turmoil crashing on the horizon, Mering’s fifth full-length project places her directly in the eye of the storm — the looming consequences of capitalism, ecological degradation and modern technology have finally caught up with the world. But rather than flee from chaos, Mering finds clarity in the ordinary and salvation in simplicity.
Lead single and album opener “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” encapsulates Mering’s ability to confront isolation using effortless wisdom. Over a tranquil piano melody and gradually layered woodwinds, Mering describes the feeling of being alienated, even among a room of partygoers. However, instead of choosing a path of loneliness, Mering embraces, and even normalizes, these isolationist sensations. As her soaring vocals coalesce into soothing harmonizations, Mering accomplishes the difficult task of deriving unity from solitude.
On the stirring fifth track of the record, “Hearts Aglow,” Mering navigates tumultuous times with a stripped-down sense of freedom. The world teeters on the brink of collapse, yet Mering’s lover keeps her tethered to hope: “The whole world is crumbling/ Oh, baby, let’s dance in the sand,” she sings. What might have crumbled into a cloying love song in the hands of any other artist instead shimmers with tenderness, thanks to Mering’s delicate finesse.
And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow also flourishes due its willingness to incorporate dazzling and experimental production, even when threatened by societal instability. At six minutes and three seconds, “Children of the Empire” captivates listeners by introducing a bevy of bright instrumentals — sharp finger snaps, blazing horns and shimmering synths. Elsewhere, “Twin Flame” mesmerizes with its bossa-nova-type beat, while “The Worst Is Done” intrigues as arguably Mering’s most upbeat pop song to date.
Indeed, many of the distended tracks often exceed five, even six, minutes, but Mering strategically incorporates instrumental breaks to cut through any auditory fatigue. “And in the Darkness” and “In Holy Flux” provide moments of fleeting solace for Mering and listeners alike.
Despite its many glowing strengths, the album’s greatest triumph is displayed when Mering crafts beautiful messages through evocative yet uncomplicated metaphors. Much of this figurative language unwinds in ruminations like water flowing through a stream — gently purposeful, but devoid of unnecessary ornamentation.
In “Grapevine,” for example, Mering evokes the winding Interstate 5 to describe a wild love that lingers even after the relationship has fragmented into painful, unresolved shards. Throughout “God Turn Me Into a Flower,” another standout track, Mering retells the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus to convey her desires of being more vulnerable, more emotionally pliable. “It’s good to be soft when they push you down/ Oh, God, turn me into a flower,” she entreats, her voice blossoming in a performance lacking almost all background instrumentation.
Though Mering beams with grace and introspective repose on And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, a tinge of disappointment lingers as the album reaches its close. While each track shines in its own right, none submerge listeners in full-bodied majesty — a feat masterfully achieved by the record’s predecessor, Titanic Rising. But perhaps that’s the point.
More than three years later, Mering is no longer flooded by foretellings of impending doom. Now, even in the face of darkness, she’s transcending into a radiant realm of love.