PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Weyes Blood: The Innocents

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Today's weather forecast predicts rain, pain, moths and tombstones. Best pack an umbrella.


Weyes Blood

The Innocents

Label: Mexican Summer
US Release Date: 2014-10-21
UK Release Date: 2014-10-20
Website
Amazon
iTunes

Picture this. A field in England. The year of our Lord 1645. A crisp, wintry dawn breaks across a tragi-glorious landscape ravaged by civil war and reeking of pain and pestilence. These boggy moors of middle England are your new home now as sadly you've recently found yourself in contention with Mr. Witchfinder General himself, Matthew Hopkins, regarding "Nefarious lunar activities". Yes, you are a ghost. Yes, like Bruce Willis. So make yourself comfortable and give the leeches and rats wide berth. This picture was the odd, "ye olde worldy" cryptic magick conjured by Weyes Blood's début The Outside Room. In America. In 2013. Dusty, muddy, drowning, hypnotic and bloody...and bloody creepy. If that was Outside prepare to step "inside". But bring your wellies; this could still get messy.

It's probably safe to suggest Weyes Blood's Natalie Mering is an old soul. Not your typical bump n' grind, "No Moët-No Show-ay", 21st century pop star. A multi-instrumentalist and one time apprentice herbalist whose father slipped the sunfried '70s West Coast music scene to become a Christian congregation leader, Mering cut her teeth with the likes of Jackie-O Motherfucker, Axolotl and Ariel Pink. Yeah, those weirdo types your folks warned you about. Her second record, The Innocents, arrives inspired by Jack Clayton's spellbinding, '60s-spookfest reworking of Henry James' 1898 Gothic griever Turn of the Screw. Its themes of loss, loneliness and the poisoned decay of youthful dreams haunt the hallways and stairwells of The Innocents. Shiver ye not though, for Mering's impressive return hugs a little warmer than before, delivering a more cathartic experience with flickers of hope and even -- zoiks! -- glimmers of sly, subtle humor. Not just gallows humor either.

First blood "Land of Broken Dreams" finds Mering as sole survivor on the battlefield -- "The failure of some man's world" -- wrapped in whistling winds and gun smoke, strumming a mandolin in salute to fallen comrades. A battle is won, a war is lost. The sweet melody bunny hops around the ashes. Evoking Eddie Vedder's sad shanties from Into the Wild, its lyrics strike prophetic and cursed, at odds with the exalted giddiness of the tune: "We were just born to buy then die and change nothing." Lana Del Rey in the time of cholera kicking against the consumerism and self-obsessed vanity of our modern age. As throughout, Mering's voice is the star attraction. Soulful, sage and stirring deep, a heady brew of Nico, Beth Gibbons and Sandy Denny.

Recent single "Hang on", though, sounds more like Cate Le Bon's recent excursions. Wistful, pastoral folk but slightly unhinged, slightly medieval. A mantra for survival, a candle in the dark, "Till the end alone...I will hang on when the rains come." Onward toward the light! It ain't over 'til someone with a blue face bellows "FREEDOMMM!!" The lush, lilting warped waterfall piano arpeggios of "Some Winters" subsequently feel disembodied, distorted, ethereal. Scenes from the other side. Slo-mo skipping through the pearly gates. Mering sings a lament of "Shame" as if walking barefoot across ice. Delicate, fragile, glacial. "Go on leave me for the last time." Oh the roses in the snow, "I wish we could still be friends...but we won't." Got chills, they're multiplying.

But here comes the sun and it's alright. Maybe. The appropriately titled "Summer" rolls like Joan Baez stretched out in the grass making daisy chains in July. "I can't wait for the time to be alone" it pines, tossing pebbles into the lake. "I will be forever yours / At least until this fall" it wisecracks endearingly, throwing some light between the crying Caspers. The tide turns again for album highlight numero uno with the hymnal "Requiem for Forgiveness". A prog sci-fi intro summons Mering in ceremonially towards the altar of Albinoni's "Adagio in G Minor". Yeah the Doors' one. What follows is achingly depressing but -- ain't it always the way? -- exquisitely beautiful. "Days in my life are numbered and so rare." A multi-layered choir of Merings swoon like resurrected souls beckoning from a mountain top monastery. Heavenly. Terrifying. Album apex part deux appears shortly after with the dead of night ballad "Bad Magic". "Make the best of death" it warns and you suspect partytime's over. Mering now sounds cracked, exhausted, weeping under starlight clutching one broken heart and a battered guitar. "The sky don't shine on me anymore" it sobs like a suicidal Sibylle Baier channelling "Love Hurts" whilst emptying her cabinet of Diazepam. "Pretty tragic on a runaway train!" Utterly riveting from first note to "car horn in the background" close. It'll properly fuck you up. Welcome to the Dead Zone.

After such haymaker hits to the heart, the last act of The Innocents feels slightly anaemic and pales a little comparatively. The wintry tombstones of "February Skies" seem like a backward step into safer, more familiar pathways despite a charming, harlequin-esque keyboard pirouette to the fade, "Fool or folly / Choose your doorway!" Similarly, "Ashes" tumbles through the castle halls with a jolly jaunt but musically haunts the memory less. Yet its lyrical ache remains compelling, "I'll throw your ashes away / Right now." The ambient instrumental "Montrose" perhaps signals a more intriguing, experimental way forward. The buzz of flickering fireflies, trailing orbs, white noise and underworld static. A fleeting but refreshingly unexpected diversion. We close the big door on The Innocents with the dreamy, beatific blue skies of "Bound to Earth". A contented smile spreads across its face, yet the words are characteristically troubled: "Chained in madness / In love and in pain." A bell rings, time's up and 3-2-1 you're back in the room.

There's a heartfelt, gentle sadness inside The Innocents that just makes you want to throw your arms around it. Mering's extraordinary voice alone is a spectacle of such supernatural sorcery it could lure you across the darkest, muddiest field. Even if you sometimes wish the Blood would perhaps wander a little wilder, a little weirder, The Innocents bleeds plenty of transcendental tunery, smart secrets and Weyes' words to unearth a rich reward for the curious. Kiss 2014 goodbye and let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.