And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

2022

The best track on the 55th best album of all time is called “A Short Term Effect”. Superficially, the song deals with the sensations that Robert Smith felt after taking drugs. Possibly more interesting are the parallels he makes between how he felt after ingesting illegal substances with a growing sensation that life itself is ultimately futile.

What have been the short-term effects of the global pandemic? What have been the long-term effects? The issues involved in the answers to these questions include connectivity, physical health, mental health, personal and world-wide financial stability.

In the 980 days since I started writing this blog, the planetary mood has shifted from isolation, withdrawal and insularity to association, interaction and gregariousness.

The pandemic has amplified existing inequalities whilst new ones have emerged. The infrastructures that existed in communities before the pandemic have been crucial in supporting people in need. These underpinning frameworks have never been prevalent in all areas of the country and the shortcomings have meant that support has been erratic.

Did the British public ever completely trust politicians? The rot started with the MP’s expenses scandal in 2009, following quickly on from the banking crisis the previous year. However, every day brings a fresh scandal, much of it to do with how corruption and greed took the place of compassion in the early days of COVID-19. On Wednesday, The Guardian published a story that suggested that Michelle Mone, a Tory peer, her husband, Douglas Barrowman, and her children secretly received £65m originating from the profits of a company that was awarded large government contracts during the pandemic after she recommended it to ministers. Such news is often greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and an assumption that all politicians are corrupt. If we can’t trust the people that run the country, what hope is there?

For many weeks during the pandemic, many people (including me) would stand outside every Thursday and applaud the workers in the NHS. In three week’s time, many nurses will strike over pay owing to a reduction of 20% in their living standards since the Tory Party came into power in 2010. Has there been a shift in the country’s perception of the value of a fully functioning NHS? Did we take it for granted until the pandemic? Will the Tory Party survive once public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of nurses? (Yes, Yes and No).

[The health secretary Steve Barclay said on Twitter that the government’s most recent pay rise for nurses means that a newly qualified nurse will typically earn over £31,000 a year. In fact, Barclay’s figure was an estimate that included both basic pay and additional earnings, which covers things like overtime, unsocial hours pay and supplements for those in high cost areas (for example, people who live in London).]

Although it would seem that a virus would not be able to distinguish between rich and poor, it seems that wealth, race and ethnicity have been significant factors in determining the long-term impact of COVID-19 due to social deprivation. Deficiencies in community care and inequalities in social care provision have been exposed for all to see. When I say “for all”, I mean “for anyone with any sense, vision or compassion”. Which is not all people.

Putin’s invasion and the resulting increase in oil prices are partly responsible for a fall in household income levels (although the means for setting energy prices is questionable, to say the least). The subsequent greater dependency on a failing social security system is likely to cause misery for many.

Lockdown and the subsequent closure of schools exacerbated the differences between educational attainment of children from different backgrounds. To completely recover lost education is unfeasible and a less highly skilled workforce is likely to be the consequence.

A return to “normal” does not appear to be possible. A progression to a “new normal” is inevitable.

Natalie Laura Mering was born in Santa Monica, California and was raised in a strictly religious household. “And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow” is her fifth studio album using the name Weyes Blood, which is a corruption of the title of “Wise Blood”, a novel by American author Flannery O’Connor, published in 1952. The album was written during the pandemic, which Mering spent in her apartment in LA, cooking food for her dog Luigi, calling her friends and watching DVDs. She conceives the album as the second album in a trilogy. Her previous album, “Titanic Rising”, was an examination of what it means to be in the thick of it and the current album is about the twin emotions of hope and despair. “I was trying to process this idea of irrevocable change, and what that does to personal relationships, the damage it can do to people, because it’s so isolating.” Or, to put it another way, to examine the short- and long-term effects of change.

The chorus of “The Worst Is Done” sums this up with “They say the worst is done and it’s time to go out and see everyone. They say the worst is done, but I think it’s only just begun. I hear it from everyone. We’re all so cracked after that.”

A recurring image is that of a cracked heart: the album cover shows Natalie Mering as an angel with a glowing chest. “It’s like a glow stick: you crack it and it glows. It’s about the power of having your heart so broken that it would emanate a light.”

The opening song, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”, paints a picture of loneliness and isolation and a contemplation of whether everybody feels the same as she does. “Living in the wake of overwhelming changes, we’ve all become strangers even to ourselves.” She advocates mercy as a cure for loneliness and takes comfort in the assumption that we are all connected by our disassociation.

The music on this album is beautifully presented. Weyes Blood’s voice is pitch perfect and reminds me of Karen Carpenter. The musicianship is superb and the arrangements are tastefully immaculate. The review in MOJO by Bil McConkey puts it very well: “There’s a sense that if things are going to be unpleasant, emotions are going to be hurt, then they at least need to be properly curated, surrounded by high drama, designed to be beautiful.”

History books of the future will be able to analyse the effects of the pandemic. For the human race, even as we emerge from the eye of the storm, we are too close to achieve a perspective. Can we hope to revive connectivity, physical health, mental health, personal and world-wide financial stability in the foreseeable future? I doubt it, but in the meantime, here is some beautiful music.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

2 thoughts on “And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow by Weyes Blood

  1. I don’t think the rot started with the ‘expenses scandal’. That was exposed by a Daily Telegraph journalist and conveniently obscured the real scandal of the previous year when multi-billions were sucked out of our economy by dubious ‘financial instruments’ constructed by dodgy finance workers (‘Bankers’).
    I also regret to say that I’m not that impressed by Weyes Blood although I loved the Flannery O’Connor book of the same-sounding name when I was a nipper.

    Liked by 1 person

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