And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow review | Weyes Blood becomes a voice for the times

★★★★☆
Weyes Blood builds on the atmospherics of her brilliant 2019 debut, with a record that brings together the traditional and the dystopian.

When Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering first addressed fans to announce the new record, she let on that the concept started a long time ago. Met with an insane amount of acclaim, Titanic Rising launched her to cult stardom. It was a critical sweep thanks to tracks like ‘Andromeda’ and ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ – and to Natalie, it was the start of something.

As the first part of a trilogy, it’s hard to imagine how she could build on the world opened up on the 2019 record. But within moments of the second instalment, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, it becomes crystal clear she always knew things would get bigger, and scarier.

Opening with the lyrical masterpiece of ‘It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody’, the single serves as an epilogue when heard in context, as Mering sings “living in the wake of overwhelming changes”, setting the scene immediately.

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If Titanic Rising was looking forward, considering things to come, this record instantly slams us into the present. Firmly leaning into the weirdness of the current day, the introduction blows up slowly from a piece about social anxiety into a stark reflection of the state of things, tackling technology, faux connectivity and the sense of prevailing doom that seems to have settled into our skin.

Weyes Blood album cover and in the darkness

It’s important to note that at no point on the album does it ever become melodramatic. Instead, the mood is summed up best at the album’s midpoint, as the one-minute long ‘And in the Darkness’ is made up of nothing but an uncanny string section – the one outright unsettling moment amid a sea of weird, numb beauty.

While the lyrics deal with the feeling of being frozen with panic, the music is more dynamic than we’ve heard from Weyes Blood. Moving from piano ballads into synth-heavy offerings, ‘Grapevine’ switches gears again with a Dylan-infused, folky turn.

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Held down by a simple acoustic guitar, the added slide guitars and distant bells marry meaning and music perfectly, telling of an epic road trip by diving deep into that Americana, old-school sound. It’s reminiscent of Anais Michell’s Hadestown, where folk meets a steam-punk aesthetic to retell a Greek myth. Hitting the same strange bases, the journey of And In The Darkness… takes you to all corners of the futuristic and the deeply traditional, in sound and content, to attempt to make sense of things.

The connection to Greek mythology makes a lot of sense as a descriptor and the only adjective that seems good enough is Homer-esque. Delivering nothing short of a ten-song-long epic poem, dystopia meets classics to perfectly represent the chaos we find ourselves in.

On ‘God Turn Me Into A Flower’ especially, this record feels like a lament. Similar to Nick Cave’s Ghosteen with its spiralling images and utopian aspects, Weyes Blood has created something that’s half-ghostly and half-powerful.

Writing a eulogy for the times – and a slow, epic crawl out of them – it feels like Natalie Mering could be the voice we need. With rich vocals that are somehow both deeply emotional and entirely cut off, lyrics that are relatable without offering any advice, and music that plays with the familiar and the uncanny, the unprecedented becomes art in her hands.


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