The deep blue gravity of Natalie Mering’s voice remains Weyes Blood’s focal point on her latest album. Front Row Seat to Earth, though, turns down some of the lonely static and tape warp of previous full length The Innocents and finds a broader folk balladry imbued with Laurel Canyon breeze that’s still tempered by contemporary turmoil.
Weyes Blood’s Cardamom Times EP from last year was a bridge both chronological and stylistic between long players. A step toward the intimate clarity of Front Row Seat to Earth, it still didn’t foretell the use of more ambitious instrumentation on “Diary”, “Used to Be” and “Do You Need My Love”, embellished with brass, wire and ivory. Mering counterweights the classic touches with ambient drone here and electronic manipulation there.
Along with the EP, this is the second record cover in a row that has Mering reposing in a landscape where soil and water mingle. Calling a cycle of psychically scarred love songs Front Row Seat to Earth teases parallels between natural and interpersonal ecologies; love in a life out of balance, the bio-dome of a relationship and the tightening boundaries of a planet once seemingly without end. The Innocents connected broad and individual issues in songs like “Land of Broken Dreams”, but here they are entwined.
“Goin’ to see end of days / I’ve been hanging / On my phone all day / And the fear goes away / I might not need to stay / On this sinking ship for long”, begins “Generation Why”. That could be a film she’s heading to, and maybe the sinking ship is fading romance, or perhaps that titular chair faces directly into the abyss of irreversible climate change or another global catastrophe. The finale, “Front Row Seat”, a collage of orchestra, theater, and movie sounds, returns to the idea that we’re all both audience and active participant.