Natalie Mering has been making quiet inroads on America’s psych-folk circuit for a good few years.
The native Californian is a regular collaborator with Ariel Pink, has toured as a member of Jackie-O-Mutherfucker, and featured on Perfume Genius’ latest album.
At the same time she’s been issuing her own music as Weyes Blood, drawing heavily on Laurel Canyon folk yet updating it for troubled times. ‘Generation Why’ considers political catastrophe unravelling while people are distracted by technology (“YOLO… / It’s not the past that scares me”), and ‘Be Free’ warns that, “It constantly seems / Like there’s no light at the end of my tunnel.”
It’s easy to miss this lyrical unease unless you listen carefully because the chamber folk on her third album, Front Row Seat To Earth, is exquisite in its pristine richness. Sombre and suffused with poised melancholy, her deep voice has the purity of Karen Carpenter as she sighs, “I stand apart from the rest” (‘Diary’).
Backed by a three-piece band, the tracks slowly unfurl with gently ascending keyboard lines (‘Used To Be’) and slide guitar (‘Seven Words’). When she introduces George Harrison’s ‘Run Of The Mill’ – one of two covers in the short set – as ‘the only song that isn’t eight minutes long’ she’s not joking.
Yet while the tracks are beautiful in isolation, over an entire set they tend to lose focus and drift into background pleasantries. With recent support slots with Father John Misty, though, it’s unlikely that her lack of hooks will hold her back from reaching a wider audience.