Every single one of our modern lives is a fully-fledged shitty disaster, Weyes Blood thinks. Isolation, deep insecurity and the hereditary guilt, for which we can thank the boomer generation, are the reasons. And on the album And In The Darkness The Hearts Aglow (Sub Pop), Weyes Blood dedicates himself extensively to them.
Sounds like a depressing affair? Maybe. But at the same time it is also a mediation on a collective experience of our present and the acknowledgment of a status quo – and that is surprisingly often very good.
“The album was made during Corona, but it’s not a Corona album,” says Natalie Laura Mering aka Weyes Blood in an interview. She is sitting at the desk in a room in the Michelberger Hotel in Berlin-Friedrichshain. The facilities here are reminiscent of an unadorned youth hostel.
Mering has left her leather jacket on, it crumples when she moves. “I wrote the album in the last two and a half years, of course the feelings and observations of the pandemic flow into it,” she says.
But the road to decline began much earlier: their current album is the second part of a musical trilogy that began with their highly acclaimed fourth album “Titanic Rising” (2019). The New Yorker hailed her as the modern day Joni Mitchell.
On the record she dealt with the impending doom, now we as humanity have made it one step further and are right in the middle: we have betrayed nature, given ourselves over to capitalism and can no longer manage human relationships. All lost, then, should we settle for it and drop the whole circus?
“I think the discussion is important first of all. We live in an exciting era: Our parents and grandparents experienced the good times, had prosperity and optimism. They were riding a wave of bliss and we are seeing that wave break,” she explains. “We have to live with the fact that most of us cannot afford to buy a house or raise children without financial difficulties.”
I think we would be much better off if we accepted that our lives and our resources are finite.
Natalie Laura Mering aka Weyes Blood
Mering is 34 years old and therefore a millennial. She belongs to the generation that experienced the world without the Internet for a moment and can remember the very last of these supposedly good times, whose world view continues to shape it: “We have a drastic will to progress, which we inoculated through the neoliberal world view got. I think we would be much better off if we accepted that our lives and our resources are finite. Life also means dying and that not everything can be expanded infinitely,” she points out.
The musician sounds as if she had studied literary works from the Baroque era. In the 17th century, too, people found themselves in a field of tension between past, future and fear. At that time, art provided two ways of dealing with it: enjoying life to excess, the motto was “Carpe Diem” or crawling away and thinking about finiteness, “memento mori”.
Weyes Blood doesn’t make the choice between freaking out or suffering, which obviously had to be made in the baroque era. She does both at the same time: suffer furiously. Her thoughts, the hopelessness and loneliness that she expresses with words, Weyes Blood clothes in musical opulence and at times scratches on the kitsch wonderfully. She uses harps, strings and polyphony. There is everything and more than enough of everything
“We tried to take it a little easier on this album,” she says. “With ‘Titanic Rising’ we went even further and then it was difficult to play the record live. At times it felt like my band was covering the album.”
The comparison with Joni Mitchell, who is made again and again and not only by the “New Yorker”, is quite appropriate. Weyes Blood has saluted the Laurel Canyon era since their first steps in music a good 11 years ago. A place not far from Merling’s own residence in Pasadena, which housed Joni Mitchell, The Mamas & The Papas or The Byrds in the sixties and provided the soundtrack to the Woodstock hippie movement. Like Mitchell, Weyes Blood has a sublime, classic contralto voice that takes it to artful heights. She sometimes sings very simple folk songs that always have something earthy, organic about them.
But Weyes Blood breaks all that when suddenly, like on the song “Children Of The Empire”, she sounds as if The Beach Boys and Abba had entered into a liaison. To euphonious whaaas and ahhhhs and exhilarating synths she garnishes lines like “Oh we don’t have time anymore to be afraid”, anyway there is no more time for fear, well at least.
On “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” she explains that we no longer feel ourselves and have also lost connection with those around us. The song sounds like a sacred celebration of failure when Mering’s voice rises with the violins to the climax of the piece. In the accompanying video, Mering dances in a maritime outfit through a theater decorated with stucco between the injured and the dead while a comic smartphone refreshes their wounds.
It’s the beauty of the break that makes Weyes Blood so appealing. The joy with which she oscillates between tongue-in-cheek, resignation and nihilism, thereby creating an oscillating whole. The album cover also fits: Merling looks like she could be the protagonist of a bad dime novel: soft filter, a ruffled blouse and bare shoulders, plus the glowing heart and a meaningful look away from the viewer. “Yeah, I wanted it to be memorable,” she says, laughing.
Highly emotional and in musical abundance: Maybe that’s exactly what saves us right now in the face of the shitty things. And still: With Weyes Blood, a broken heart also means a heart that shines. “Like those glow sticks when fishing,” she explains. However, these have a rather short lifespan before they are completely extinguished. “Yes, we all have. None of us shines forever, but if we do, at least as brightly as possible.”
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