From noise experimenter to folk pop songstress, Natalie Mering AKA Weyes Blood has had a wildly eclectic career so far, and with each release it gains new strength. Her transcendent fifth album And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow dropped in November, to massive acclaim. Now she’s bringing it to stages across the world, calling at The Ritz on 13 February.
Natalie Mering’s music explores everything that drives us, divides us, and destroys us. This sounds like heavy stuff, but the California-born artist is a reassuring guide. Though burdened by doubt, she is also buoyed by hope — her music unfurling with stunning nuance and ease. “Bob Seger meets Enya” is how she once described her work. When you hear Weyes Blood’s otherworldly expansiveness and hook-laden melodies, you realise she isn’t kidding.
Mering grew up singing in gospel and madrigal choirs, before picking up guitar at the age of eight. That — mingled with her love of jazz, filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and scholar Joseph Campbell — shaped all the music that would follow. As a multi-instrumentalist Mering cut her teeth in the world of noise and experimental rock, playing bass in Portland-based freak rock collective Jackie-O Motherfucker for a time before venturing out as a solo artist in 2006.
But it wasn’t until way later in 2019 that she properly broke through, thanks to her fourth, fantastic, Sub Pop-released album Titanic Rising – a sentimental ode to living and loving in the face of various catastrophes, from capitalism pushing workers to the brink of exhaustion to the internet depleting our ability to truly connect. Musically the record served up 10 tracks of lush, classic pop, with psychedelic and electronic elements twisted in. Mering’s voice was the star of the show, exuding that kind of effortless, old school beauty that you can’t help but lose yourself in.
And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow follows on from Titanic Rising and represents the second chapter in a planned trilogy. Where that last record was defined by a sense of foreboding, the new one chronicles “a search for an escape hatch to liberate us from algorithms and ideological chaos” (spoiler alert: the next one will be about ‘hope’). More specifically, the record seems largely to be about isolation and alienation, these themes delivered via a collection of slow-blooming, hymn-like songs, lushly orchestral and proceeding at the unhurried pace of guided meditations.
Mering describes the lead single, ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’ (listen above) as “a Buddhist anthem, ensconced in the interconnectivity of all beings, and the fraying of our social fabric.” ‘Grapevine’, another lush gem of a song, sees Mering caught in a fraught romance that distances her from herself, furthering the sort of alienation she seems determined to transcend throughout the album. “Technology is harvesting our attention away from each other”, Mering says. “We all have a ‘Grapevine’ entwined around our past with unresolved wounds and pain. Being in love doesn’t necessarily mean being together. Why else do so many love songs yearn for a connection?”
Of course, being so preoccupied with connection, playing live is a big part of Mering’s life as an artist, and her thoughtfully choreographed shows are as much about community and communion as they are about music. Sure to be one of the standout shows of early 2023, we can’t wait to catch Weyes Blood at The Ritz on 13 February.