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All the Weyser

Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood brings her rejuvenated "And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow" tour to the National.


As with any artist on the road in 2020, the cancellation of touring related to the pandemic presented both obstacles and opportunities. For the singer-and-songwriter, Natalie Mering, the chance to rethink her sound and reconfigure next steps was suddenly right there. Unpleasant as it may've been at the time, she adapted.

Mering, the one constant of the chamber pop band, Weyes Blood (pronounced ‘Wise Blood’ like the Flannery O’Conner novel), knew that downtime could yield results, with songs starting to flow at the beginning of the pandemic. “We were touring the last record and everything abruptly stopped,” she says in a recent interview. “I began writing in the lockdown, and at the dawn of the vaccines we were recording, starting out masked.”

At some point, the 35-year-old says she “took a break to get a little bit of a feel of how the world was working.” Add a little time spent with a mundane task – namely, waiting for the album’s vinyl to be produced – and a record that was recorded in 2021 was finally released in late 2022 to near-universal critical acclaim. Her fifth and latest as Weyes Blood, “And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” (Sub Pop), showcases an artist at the top of her game, with reviews consistently giving it high marks. At some recent tour dates she's been sharing bills with artists such as The Strokes, Beck and Phoenix.

That trend was already showing itself with her breakthrough 2019 album on Sub Pop, “Titanic Rising,” which charted a bit in the United States and the United Kingdom and resulted in a host of live recordings, such as KEXP’s in-house video series, as well as the popular Tiny Desk Concert with NPR. You could spend a good hour, or three, combing through YouTube in search of clips from this era, with new, live experiences now coming to the web thanks to the early success of “And in the Darkness…”

And the latest acclaim is coming from multiple angles.

Pitchfork, for example, notes that “if a lesser artist were to attempt an album like ‘And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow,’ they might come up with pablum. Its central theme—the search for connection among humans in an increasingly fractured world—is extremely pressing, so much so that it’s also sort of obvious. How do you say anything new or interesting about the water that all of us are swimming in every day? … Mering does so by looking inward and outward at once: having faith that their own perspectives, rendered vividly and honestly enough, can reveal truths that extend far beyond themselves.”

Rolling Stone riffs on Weyes Blood’s tackling of big themes, noting that “Natalie Mering's fifth album is a beautifully wrought pop record that grapples with the disquiet hanging over the globe.”

Early in her career, Mering tested the musical waters by playing in the Portland, Oregon underground scene in the experimental band, Jackie-O Motherfucker, and the noise rock band, Sanitized, before striking out on her own under the Weyes Blood moniker with the six-song 2011 album “The Outside Room.” She’s continued by releasing the albums “The Innocents” (2014), “Front Row Seat to Earth” (2016), and “Titanic Rising” before “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow,” fashioning a sound that has grown from more mechanical beginnings into a rich, frequently orchestrated pop sound built around her striking and wistful vocal melodies.

Prior to the release of her latest album in November of 2022, Mering notes that she did “play some shows, but mostly I was working on music videos.” On that level, the singer says that she’s becoming increasingly involved in the video-making experience, seldom turning things over to a director for a full treatment, preferring that her vision be central, down to working directly on the editing process.

In preparation for her latest run of tour dates, Mering says her goal is to play as many places as possible with a lean, 12-song, two-encore set that emphasizes a bit of all the Weyes Blood eras, with a particular lean into the newest work. “It’s tough,” she says, “because I have a lot of material now. It’s about picking the right things. We could do a three-hour set.”

While fans won’t get that, they will get a rejuvenated, ready act in Weyes Blood.

Weyes Blood performs at The National in Richmond with Nick Hakim on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Visit the website for more information. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m.