The reality of Weyes Blood’s new studio album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, took a while to set in. Natalie Mering — the singer-songwriter behind Weyes Blood — has stated that her newest release is the second installment of a trilogy of albums. Titanic Rising, Mering’s critically acclaimed fourth studio album, was the exposition of the story, as she introduced us to the world she created. There was a sense of calm before the storm. Mering makes things abundantly clear as the second album picks up where the first one left off — as the storm begins.
The album opens with a distant orchestral intro, reminiscent of Titanic Rising, which serves as a reminder that these two albums are connected in a single storyline. The lead single, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” also reminds people of the interconnectedness between each other. In a world full of devices designed to connect us even further, why do we seem more disconnected than ever before? In a letter that she released with the album’s announcement, Mering wrote, “Our culture relies less and less on people. This breeds a new, unprecedented level of isolation.” She adds that “hyper-isolation” was a common theme she considered while writing the album. “We are literally in the thick of it,” Mering wrote in the same letter. Although we are approaching chaos, “Children of the Empire,” track two, emphasizes acceptance — “We don’t have time anymore to be afraid.”
The accompanying music video — a self-proclaimed “technicolor horror show” — for “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” further investigates technology’s impact on modern life. In it, Mering happily gallops around a theatre in an old-timey sailor outfit while a carnivorous cartoon cell phone murders everybody around her. Throughout the album, she continues to focus on this overarching theme of technology as a killer of connection. The music video is also reminiscent of the murderous scene depicted in an earlier video for Titanic Rising’s “Everyday.”
Though Titanic Rising and And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow both have the signature Weyes Blood nostalgic sound, the latter seems to lean more into haunting melodies, frequently leaving me in awe. Mering’s vocals are hypnotic, and they often sound ethereal. Her voice is frequently compared to ‘70s icons like Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell, yet the subject matter of her music brings to the table a modern take that truly sets her apart from her predecessors. Her vocals shine in every song, but her aching voice is particularly breath-taking on “God Turn Me Into a Flower,” “Grapevine” and “A Given Thing.” There is something about the sound of Mering’s voice that is simply entrancing — like she has lived forever, and seen everything that has happened and that will happen. Her velvet voice is comforting in a way I have never felt before.
In “The Worst Is Done,” Mering makes a statement that defines the post-lockdown feelings of many — “It’s been a long, strange year.” The track will likely strike a chord with a lot of listeners. The lyrics can apply to a multitude of situations, like a depressive episode, or even a global pandemic. The track is upbeat and rejoiceful, and it feels like a celebration of these times being over.
Personally, I was very nervous about this release. Titanic Rising was one of those albums for me. One that you can just put on, let play from start to finish and know every little detail — from each lyric to every melancholic melody. When I learned Weyes Blood was releasing And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, I neglected listening to the new music for about a month. What if I didn’t like it as much as I did the previous album, and what if, by proxy, it made me like one of my favorite albums just a little bit less? This is a problem I run into many times with new releases. Due to my anxieties, I will usually wait an awkward amount of time before I finally choose to venture into an artist’s newer stuff. I don’t want to say I was surprised, but I was pleasantly relieved to find that Weyes Blood once again delivered.
Though sequels don’t have the best record — at least when it comes to movies — Weyes Blood stepped up to the plate for And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow. As she built upon her trademark cosmic atmosphere, she continued to raise the bar. As for the third and final installment of her trilogy, only time will tell.