The first thing you notice about Weyes Blood’s new album, Front Row Seat to Earth, is its closeness. The music is immediate and warm with intimate feeling. This disarming nearness draws out emotion from the album’s sound in evocative, bold color. The lyrics serve not to obscure and mystify, but to perform, reveal, and take the listener inside. This is the folk music of the near future.
Natalie Mering, the being behind Weyes Blood, sings sublimely on Front Row. These are her words and she means them. Between the subtle pulses of her breath, we feel the textures of her voice. Her delivery is a trained low gloss, polished with the charm of speech. Mering embeds her song in a harmonic gauze of arpeggiated piano, acoustic guitar, druggy horns, and outer space electronics. Propulsive, spare drums carry us across the album’s course.
There is a faded California beauty to Front Row. A gentle honesty that recalls the finest folk music made on the West Coast of the ‘70s. The hue hangs in the sweet-spooky harmonies, the pulsing sway of the vibrato, and the ecstatic chord resolves. It is the joyful release of energy as the song delicately unfolds from intro to extrospection.
But this beauty is scratched with shadow; with dark foreboding, alienation, and acceptance of change. Love and loss balance together in suspended alchemy, as the earthiness of the singer-songwriter tradition wears digital sounds like feathers in its hair. Mering, together with co-producer Chris Cohen and some special guests, contrasts live band intimacy with the post-modern electric sheen of A.M. radio atmospherics. The experimental flourishes sparkle amid the succinct, thoughtful arrangements.
The closeness of this record - how personal, alone, and frank it feels - conceals its aspirations to the outside, to the “Earth” of its title. Mering wants to lead us through the microcosm of the personal to the macrocosm of the transpersonal. Her witness harbors devastating weight (”... and now you can’t stay, please baby don’t go away”) while universalizing the strange ways of identity and relationships.
These are not typical love songs or protest songs; they are painful, poignant riddles that celebrate the ambiguity of love. Mering affirms the conflict of harmonious life within a disharmonic world. She illuminates and mythologizes it, projecting it back over the whole of Earth. The inner ecology leads outward, bridging “us” with our obscure inheritance of nature.
Active in underground music since 2006, Natalie Mering has collaborated with Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink, and released four records as Weyes Blood. Front Row Seat to Earth is her third record for Mexican Summer.