|Weyes Blood||Front Row Seat To Earth|
Weyes Blood — Front Row Seat To Earth Location: New York, U.S.
Genre: Psychedelic Folk
Album release: October 21, 2016
Record Label: Mexican Summer
1. Diary 5:36
2. Used to Be 4:32
3. Be Free 6:22
4. Do You Need My Love 6:25
5. Generation Why 5:21
6. Can’t Go Home 4:40
7. Seven Words 4:37
8. Away Above 5:18
9. Front Row Seat 1:55 Credits:
¬••• All songs written by: Natalie Mering
¬••• Published by: Secretly Canadian Publishing (BMI)
¬••• Produced by: Natalie Mering and Chris Cohen
¬••• Engineered by: Chris Cohen
¬••• Mixed by: Kenneth Gilmore
¬••• Mastered by: David Ives
¬••• Artwork by: Evan Howard Hill
¬••• Photography by: Katie Miller
¬••• Layout by: Rob Carmichael, SEEN
★↔★ The new Weyes Blood record, Front Row Seat To Earth, is the folk music of the near future. Natalie Mering, the being behind Weyes Blood, embeds her sublime 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. Weyes Blood harbors devastating weight while also 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 and affirm the conflict of harmonious life within a disharmonic world. Review
By Jillian Mapes, OCTOBER 19 2016 / Score: 8.3
¬••• The fourth full~length from singer/songwriter/producer Natalie Mering overflows with the misty sounds of late ‘60s folk and ‘70s AM radio, but her presence in these songs is modern and slyly knowing.
¬••• Weyes Blood makes serious music, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Proof of that can be found in the final seconds of Front Row Seat to Earth, the fourth full~length from the singer/songwriter/producer born Natalie Mering. A brass band breaks through the din of hazy film samples and warped classical piano with the kind of royal proclamation that declares, “I’m here!” — just as the soiree is ending. Oops! Or look to the album’s cover. The scene — a river winding through a dystopian landscape, with Mering perched on her side in the middle of it all, clad in a stylish turquoise satin suit — is mesmerizing. Then the eye moves towards her shoes: beat~up sneakers. What the hell?
¬••• Front Row works sort of similarly. The songs overflow with tender harmonies worthy of a Roches record and ornate instrumentation (from Mering and a strong cast of contributors) that blends ‘70s AM radio, the psychier end of late ‘60s folk, and touches of Celtic and Renaissance music. But listen closer and there’s often a slightly alien (and typically electronic) undercurrent that keeps you intrigued. It’s there in the ominous synth line that rises up from below a peaceful acoustic and tasteful woodblock and shakers in “Away Above,” and again in the deadpan background vocals that haunt “Seven Words” just below the surface of a doe~eyed slide guitar solo from Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy. The over~the~top pinnacle of this effect comes on the knockout six~and~a~half~minute single “Do You Need My Love,” where Mering sustains a note — on the word “need” — intermittently in the song’s last half. All around her calm belt, calamity stirs: a brass band, piano chords, a thick bassline, graceful and complex percussion, and above all, an ominous synth that glows like an orb, brighter and brighter to the end. Keep in mind, this is a song that two minutes earlier, featured a breakdown comprised of psychedelic organ and thunder noises, which sounds like an oddly specific combination to anyone who hasn’t endured the Doors. At times Mering really does sound like “Enya Does the Lost Songs of Karen Carpenter (Backed by Ray Manzarek).” But thankfully her lyrics don’t also lose themselves in mystical platitudes borrowed from generations past. She cuts through the bullshit here: “Do you need someone?” she asks, walking the line between robotic and serene. “Do you need my love?”
¬••• As much of a throwback as Mering can seem, at her best she captures her era in her words. On “Generation Why,” arguably the album’s centerpiece, she actually sings the letters “YOLO” with more thoughtful care than the phrase ever deserved. Using the kind of dulcet finger~picking and flowery folk~singer phrasing that’s been easy to dismiss as wimpy for decades, Mering essentially chronicles how she learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. “I’ve been hanging/On my phone all day/And the fear goes away,” she says, trying to embrace the kids’ distraction of choice from the coming end times. Later, she surmises, almost kicking herself halfway through for jinxing it, “It’s not the past/That scares me/Now what a great future/This is gonna be.”
¬••• Even Mering’s less philosophical takes feel distinctly modern. “Be Free,” the song that sounds the most like a waltz, finds her embracing an independent approach to drifting apart that seems more now than of the free love era its far~out sounds might have worked within. “It’s just the two of us/And I want you to be free/Don’t worry about me/I got my thing,” she sings. As first she sounds perfectly clear (the record’s production is excellent), but by the end, in creep those alien background vocals again.
¬••• It’s this ability — to twist an homage just enough to show that you’re aware of how totally saccharine it sounds — that makes Mering shine in a way she hasn’t on her albums up to this point. She commits more fully to the world she’s building here, though 2014’s sprawling rock rumination The Innocents is not without its highlights. Her approach (not her sound) recalls Angelo Badalamenti’s lush, over~the~top score to “Twin Peaks.” It was overwhelming and kitschy, but you could tell that he knew it, particularly when paired with David Lynch’s work. Mering’s music might sound like it belongs from a bygone era, but she definitely knows it. If you listen closely enough, you can start to locate her in this fantastical backdrop — sly and assured. What, doesn’t everyone wear sneakers to the apocalypse?
|Weyes Blood||Front Row Seat To Earth|