Music

The Ascent Of Weyes Blood’s Mystic Pop

I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words. — Maggie Nelson, Bluets

These seven words I say to you / One by one / ‘I love you and you have to know.’ — Weyes Blood, “Seven Words

Love doesn’t understand time very well. Neither do I, anymore. Love is the opposite of time, I think, not a spectrum but a continuum. When I listen to Weyes Blood’s Front Row Seat To Earth, I lose all track of time. All I hear is blue. I don’t hear the record as a collection of songs, only as color. The color is you, and summer, and leaving; my oldest memory or my freshest wound. It sounds white-hot, and blue. I hear the blues as a taxonomy of grief; separation like wind and salt, shore and sea. It goes on and on, far out beyond what I can see. That doesn’t mean it has no end, only, I can’t see it from where I am. It leaves me wanting.

When I talk about desire, I know I’m really talking about New York. New York is the bluest city, it sings the color in despair and decadence. It’s the only city that makes me feel like I’ve ceased to exist when I leave; it sucks the air right out of me on sight or departure. If I breathe wrong, everything cuts sharp like a blue crying jag, but my eyes are dry. Leaving is not death, but in the right heat it feels like it might be. When grief comes as fast and bright as this, I am just a passenger; a spectator of my own heart. There is the grief in death, but leaving hurts more, because the chance — a different life — still exists, even if it’s just in my mind. At least death can’t be argued with. Why did you only come to me when I was leaving? Your arrival was already a loss.

Front Row Seat To Earth came then, too. The record arrived at the end of last October, just over a year ago this week, courtesy of the Brooklyn label Mexican Summer. I’ve listened to it almost every single day since then. Certainly, I’ve listened to this record every day of 2017, the last artifact of a world that no longer feels possible. Released just two weeks before Trump was elected, political chaos dominated every airwave, and when he won, there was little time to dwell on a mystical pop record from a young female artist on a small indie label. So Weyes Blood and Mering didn’t get the fanfare a record this brilliant should’ve received. Her seven words remained, humming, beneath a world undone.

Natalie Mering began to write the songs on Front Row Seat To Earth in New York, while living down in the Rockaways. It’s a wet record, hot and windy and humid, lingering over doubt and desire like a glance down a long, blue shoreline. The Rockaways are where I would go, too, whenever anyone left me; to see the ocean hit the sky, to remind myself there is something bigger than being alone. But space is only part of grief’s bad magic — time is always the other half. Some days, I wish I hadn’t given the record to you, resent you living here, inside it, too. Others, I’m comforted to know you hear it too, one final link between us.

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Over a year later, I can say with confidence that the best moment in music in 2016 comes at the 2:22 mark on Weyes Blood’s “Seven Words.” It’s the moment when Natalie Mering passes the torch from her own looped, tripled host of wordless harmonies over to a guitar solo so full of yearning the notes sounds like a human ache made louder. Loosed from the confines of words, Mering picks back up a couple seconds later, looping further above and beyond the solo, back into the song’s structure.

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