An undeniable feeling of weightlessness accompanies Weyes Blood while she cries out every note as if it was her last breath. I can only describe the feeling of being taken into the picturesque world of Natalie Mering's imaging akin to being carried away by a wave of pillowy clouds that brush gracefully against your skin as you ascend to the Heavens. The clouds rub against your skin, gracefully pushing you on your way. Pure, unequivocal elegance and euphoria are brought to life through the power of Weyes Blood's silvery and hypnotic voice- which remains mighty in its reservedness- as it lays harmoniously on a velvety bed of eclectic instrumentation. It sounds like a pulchritudinous paradise inconceivable to humans- a world detached from the many faults that make our world so difficult to live in. It's a world conceived by Weyes Blood's passion, her passion being the tool that allows her to ignite an ardent flame in the listener's heart and reach deeper into them, resonating with their soul.
Of course, this sensation should need no introduction for those familiar with Weyes Blood.
If there was one album from last decade that felt the most perfect, it was Titanic Rising. Near spotless in all of its sheer beauty (perhaps even to a fault at points), Titanic Rising showed Weyes Blood as an untouchable figure in modern pop. Those who fell in love with Weyes Blood through Titanic Rising should be ecstatic to know that And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow is, sonically, in the same vein as Titanic Rising. In fact, this record feels more like a sister album to Titanic Rising than a true successor.
Their similarities make sense; as Natalie herself has said, this record is the second part of a trilogy. The same air of melancholia that Titanic Rising engulfed its listeners in returns with those feelings of longing and loneliness we all know too well only amplified by the events of the past couple of years. Yet this melancholia is what And in the Darkness relishes in: it's the culmination of being shut in for a year, forced to distance yourself from people, and over three and a half years of near-complete silence from Natalie Mering all condensed into eight illustrious ballads.
Though the changes the rough past few years have had on Weyes Blood's mentality, however, did not change her ability to seamlessly traverse the listener through the inner workings of her mind. The songwriting, above all else, remains the crown jewel of Weyes Blood's music. The songwriting embodies a similar mix of romanticism and yearning, with some politics scattered throughout that comprised Titanic Rising. But where And in the Darkness and Titanic Rising differ, however, are the circumstances they were written under; Titanic Rising was written in fear of devastating changes in the world, meanwhile, And in the Darkness was written amid these changes. The opener,
It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody, captures that feeling of isolation and those barriers people put up to block themselves from the cruelty of the outside, highlighting Natalie's knack for turning poetry into something catchy, as she croons the repeated mantras of "It's Everybody" with the elegance of a canary in the night. Speaking of canaries, the track God Turn Me Into A Flower, which transforms from somber and minimalist ambient pop into a full-out birdsong, recounts the tale of Narcissus, a myth about a man who becomes so intensely obsessed with his reflection, which, as Natalie herself put it, "leads him to starve and lose all perception outside his infatuation"- all of which is condensed into only twelve lines of writing. The track is layered with meaning, not only allowing the story to apply to many people's fears of being judged and their dissatisfaction with who they are but also letting her escapism show as she yearns to become something more elegant.
"Oh God, turn me into a flower."
Even the more romantic and hopeful moments are tinged with feelings of helplessness and fear of an impending dystopia. However, with all the songwriting talk, I have yet to get the chance to acknowledge this album's grandiose and glorious sound. Soaring climaxes of lush instrumentation lift the listener off their feet and send them flying into the sky, the perfect compliment to Weyes Blood's soft-spoken, reverb-soaked vocals. Every track feels rich with immense detail, yet never overly complicated; soft and luscious, yet never to the point of boredom.
Returning to God Turn Me Into a Flower, the track begins with a slow-moving, organ-sounding ambiance serving as the backdrop to which Weyes Blood paints a beautiful portrait through hushed and drawn-out vocal passages. It continues to evolve over its runtime, with hums that once served as background vocals now at the forefront, intertwining with swelling synths, eventually culminating with nothing more than the serene sounds of birds chirping away. The Worst Is Done, which roots itself in an alt-country sound, sounds like the most upbeat track in the bunch with its glistening shots of synthesizers, faster drum pattern, and Beach Boys-esque chants of "Bum Ba Bum Ba Bum" in the background, though its lyrics soon reveal it to be one the discouraged songs Weyes Blood has ever made with her proclamations of:
"They say the Worst Is Done
But I think the worst has yet to come
Now, I Hear it from everyone"
Grapevine pairs up twangy guitars with delicate humming, which envelop the background, almost sounding like droning ambiance. The grand arrangements of strings make the track feel like something out of a storybook. The hazy and gentle sound of Weyes Blood’s typical baroque pop stylings pair well with the subtle country influence on the track, creating a uniquely dreamy take on country music. Hearts Aglow, which starts relatively reserved, builds to its explosive pinnacle, which kicks in around the 1:40 mark. Spiraling arpeggios, echoing claps, an ensemble of strings, psychedelic plucks of a guitar, and dazzling background melodies soon adorn the backdrop to which Natalie gives one of her most emotive performances across the entire record, along with relaying some of her most romantic yet simultaneously pessimistic lyrics.
"The whole world is crumbling
Oh, baby, let's dance in the sand"
The sentiment of this song pretty much encompassed the sentiment contained by the entire album: The world is fucked, we are all going to die and are trapped in this cruel place, but amongst it all, we have each other and ourselves- so take me by the hand, leave your preconceptions behind, and enjoy it, because we’re all that really matters. What a magical fucking piece of music.
Favorite Tracks: It's Not Just Me, It's Everybody, Children of the Empire, Grapevine, God Turn Me Into a Flower, Hearts Aglow, The Worst Is Done, A Given Thing
Worst Track: And in the Darkness (Twin Flame if I had to pick a non-interlude)