Weyes Blood The Innocents

[Mexican Summer; 2014]

Styles: deceptive complexity, early music echoes, dawn, dusk, summer into winter
Others: Cate Le Bon, Perfume Genius, Julia Holter, Seaven Teares

The gravitas, the seeming archaic ambiance of Weyes Blood’s new album does not originate in the (hypnotic, engaging, full) voice of Natalie Mering or some innate old-fashionedness, as one may be first inclined to guess. In an interview, Mering cites early music as an essential influence, mentioning in particular Bach’s ideal of the perfect fifth. Listening to The Innocents with this presence-of-history in mind, all doubts as to the “sincerity” of such old sounds fall into the realm of irrelevance.

And then the comparisons pour in. Something in her voice calls to mind Angel Olsen! That guitar line echoes a Joanna Newsom harp line! The harmonies and design of this or that track are reminiscent of Julia Holter! Cate Le Bon sings from the same deep cave! The piano melancholia and brief electronic distortions of “Some Winters” carry with them the aroma of Perfume Genius! And on and on. Fuck those comparisons. Sweep them aside. Context is important and history is magnetic from afar, but Weyes Blood knows this and sings past it all. Aside from that pull toward early music’s crystalline starkness, these are all just knee-jerk attempts at situating oneself against a really visionary work.

That awkward transition from verse to chorus in “Hang On” should never, never work, but the song is infinitely more compelling for that risk. Another risk: if a listener weren’t paying attention, she might miss the presence of the multitude of strange, often electronic artifacts swimming around the album’s rather earthy songs. “Land of Broken Dreams” hosts, quietly, behind its huge sweeps of regal melody, the drips, drops, taps, and bubbling-ups of a tidal id. These echoes might bring early dub experiments to mind were the song not so absolutely alien to that genre.

The Innocents is not at all without easy-to-recognize sources of inspiration, but the songs, you idiots, the songs! If you think you’ve heard songs more successful at melodrama and heavy mood than “Bad Magic” or more successful at the naked, perennial mode of “pure beauty” than “Requiem For Forgiveness,” I want you to forget them, because you are kidding yourself.

Would Bach be proud? Who cares? Heaven in music.

Links: Weyes Blood - Mexican Summer

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