Eerie songs masked by Natalie Mering's dulcet tones

Listening to Natalie Mering, also known as Weyes Blood, is like watching the Death Star in Star Wars exploding in slow motion - one soaks in the horror of the human and ecological consequences and yet thrills at how strikingly beautiful the spectacle is. A fireball of light and splinters in a pool of darkness.

That is the lovely, disconcerting effect of taking in Front Row Seat To Earth, her fourth album which takes an uncommon approach to discussing climate change and world crises and her personal history of break-ups.

The 28-year-old Los Angeleno sings in a lustrous croon. It is as if she has just walked out of Laurel Canyon, the artists' commune in the early 1970s. You are often fooled into thinking you're listening to a dusted, old recording by Vashti Bunyan or Judee Sill.

It is chamber-folk with a screw loose. She understands the principle of soundtracking a horror film: the more dulcet the tone, the more eerie it actually is. To that end, she introduces New Age-y synths into the mix, an Enya-ish tendency to overlay and buff everything into an anonymous sheen.

Just immerse in the deceptive lull of Generation Why. For the first few seconds, everything comes on gently like first daybreak - until you make out the lyrics. "Going to see end of days/I've been hanging on my phone all day," she declares, softly buttressing her vowels with the echo of yesteryear.



    Weyes Blood

    Mexican Summer

    4/5 stars

Her delivery is poised and precise, with nary a syllable out of place. It is the inevitable demise of mankind and one may as well savour the panorama, like those people huddled together in Lars Von Trier's 2011 dystopian drama Melancholia - but wait, only after one is done yakking on the phone.

"It's not the past that scares me/Now what a great future this is gonna be," she promises, with the unsentimental wisdom of a survivalist.

The tension lies in such cavalier juxtaposition as she delivers another modern-day cliche, YOLO - you only live once - elongating each letter like a memory stretched beyond recognition.

She does not trade in nostalgia, even if the music recalls the past in refracted ways. An independent woman, she dashes out her romantic indictment: "It's just the two of us and I want you to be free/Don't worry about me/I got my thing."

She is either the most liberated and enlightened soul or has the worst sort of passive-aggressiveness.

Still, you know she means well in the break-up ballad Seven Words. She chants: "I love you and I want you to know", over somnolent bass and the trailing ends of an organ.

Throughout, she is trying her darnedest to keep calm but, even then, her composure gives way slightly when she confronts her terrible fate.

"It's starting to burn/and I wanna go home/only home I've known/lost in the storm," she pleads, voice elevated one notch, accompanied by a chorus of her own voices ricocheting in the dying seconds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Eerie songs masked by dulcet tones'. Print Edition | Subscribe