Weyes Blood Makes My Heart Glow
Weyes Blood (a.k.a. Natalie Mering) is hard to categorize. The closest I can come is 70s soft rock, like Bread, but without the schlock. Perhaps, she can be compared to 70s and 80s singer-songwriters. She certainly structures her songs like Aimee Man or Jenny Lewis might; Or is she more like Sandy Denny? I sit here listening to her latest album, And in The Darkness, Hearts Glow thinking that’s she’s all of the above and none of the above. I have too many points of reference. But then there’s that voice! Her contralto is rich and, yet, soothing. Maybe it’s because of Christine McVie’s recent passing but I keep thinking of her when I hear Weyes Blood. Then the song “God Turned Me into a Flower” comes on and I think of Joan Armatrading’s voice. Then later on, along with shimmering synths, Weyes Blood sings wordlessly and all of a sudden, it’s as if I’m listening to a lost Enya song. Is this dream pop? Is this new age? Soft rock from my youth? I can’t tell nor do I care. It’s just wonderful.
Somehow, none of these diverse, stylistic elements clash. Blood welds these different styles and genres together, finding a common core, to provide achingly beautiful music. Even though she employs typical indie pop tropes (finger snaps anyone) it is done deftly. It’s not twee or trite. Even when more upbeat and pop (as in “Children of the Empire” or “Hearts Aglow”), Weyes Blood doesn’t come across as hackneyed.
Blood uses simple orchestral arrangements and background choruses to great effect. Piano and strings dominate over guitar, adding to sweetness and light. This is evident from the opening song, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”. It opens with strings and shimmering synths playing in the background, as if far away. Then you get a simple piano and finally her rich contralto voice. The rising and falling music sounds like 70s soft rock seen through the lens of modern sensibilities.
There are some odd moments though. “And in The Darkness” is 16 seconds of cello that… does nothing. Too short to be a bridge and not an intro to “Twin Flames” it seems out of place. Aside from that, even the odd choices make sense. The bongos in “Twin Flames” drive a steady beat that adds depth to the song rather than make it some weird Latin/pop mashup. The country flair of “Grapevine” (which immediately had me saying “is this a Rilo Kiley song?”) and or Dion Warwick-style 60s jazz pop of “The Worst is Done” could have seemed out of place. Instead, it helps drive a bit of that retro soft rock sound into the album, creating a warm and familiar environment. Some of the songs are clearly influenced by classical music, such as “In Holy Flux” or the intro of “It’s Not Just Me, “It’s Everyone.” These only enhance, as opposed to detracting, from the more experimental aspects of the album.
It’s rare in the indie pop world to experience an artist who can combine so many traditional and modern elements together to yield something this unique. And in The Darkness, Hearts Glow, however, does just that. And that voice! I’ll probably hear that voice in my sleep from now on. In fact, I’ll be hearing “A Given Thing”, the closing tune, in my sleep for years to come. Reassuring, sweet, and beautiful. That’s how I want to go to sleep.