‘And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow’ is a warm hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a while 

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Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/Daily Campus.

“And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” is Natalie Mering’s fifth album under the alias of “Weyes Blood.” It opens with the lyrics “Sitting at this party / Wondering if anyone knows me.” It evokes a feeling many can identify with: being in the presence of others in the physical sense, but unable to shake that light but constant feeling of loneliness. You feel like no one truly understands you, perhaps not even yourself; in conforming to different expectations, you lose your sense of identity. The song expands its scope from personal to universal as Mering repeats its title, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody.” 

In a letter to fans announcing this album, Mering revealed that this project is the second part of a trilogy beginning with her 2019 album “Titanic Rising.” 

“It was an observation of things to come, the feelings of impending doom. ‘And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow’ is about entering the next phase, the one in which we all find ourselves today – we are literally in the thick of it,” Mering writes in the letter.  

“It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” perfectly captures this shared sense of melancholy. The second track, “Children of the Empire,” functions as a call to action. Mering makes it clear that the youth sadly need to be the people to fix the world from the unfortunate state that previous generations have left it in, and that “We don’t have time anymore to be afraid.” It becomes an anthem for change with its lush, maximalist arrangements featuring strings and church bells; “We know we’re not free / Even though we wanna be free.” 

“God Turn Me Into a Flower” is the stunning centerpiece of the album. It recalls the myth of Narcissus, who became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool of water. Refusing to leave the pool, he starved to death. His corpse then transformed into a flower.  

This song leads to two distinct interpretations. The first is the longing for a world in which it is okay to be soft and vulnerable.  

“It’s almost like the greatest hubris of all is just thinking that there’s just gonna be something better, and never working on yourself. Oh, you just need this career, this milestone,” Mering remarked in an interview with Pitchfork.  

The second meaning of the track is that with all the unrelenting obligations, payments and catastrophic world events one must deal with, maybe it would be better to escape it all — turning into a flower that sways with the rest of the universe. The gorgeous three-minute outro containing heavenly birdsongs certainly makes a strong argument. 

“The Worst Is Done” follows up the message of the first track to a degree. This time, Mering encourages people to connect through their shared experiences: “We’re not meant to be our own angels all the time.” However, as the song progresses, the chorus shifts to a pessimistic tone, reflecting the communal dread the last few years have caused. 

As the album title suggests, there is still beauty to be found in the world. In the track “Hearts Aglow,” Mering finds solace in love. Just like many negative aspects of the world, love is something she cannot control. However, the fact that love is as natural and uncontrollable as the weather is what makes it special. On the closer, “A Given Thing,” she sings, “It’s not something you gotta earn from each other / It just comes naturally, it’s there for the taking.”  

To nitpick, the album does feel slightly frontloaded. The latter half is weaker, but that is relative to the stellar first half. You could pick any song from this project and it would still top the best track on most other projects released this year. The short interludes, “And in the Darkness” and “In Holy Flux,” feel unnecessary, but they take up so little time that their inclusion does not really matter, for better or for worse. 

I’m just so tired of everything. “And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow” perfectly captures this feeling that is shared by many. It acknowledges the state of the world and reflects upon what we can do to help ourselves make it through. This album is exactly what I needed at this moment; I cannot recommend it enough. 

Rating: 9/10 

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