Weyes Blood, “Titanic Rising” (Sub Pop)
The artist Natalie Mering, who records as Weyes Blood, describes her new album in release notes as “Enya meets Bob Seger,” and no matter how curious such a combination may seem on paper — her moniker is a riff on Flannery O’Connor’s grim novel, to boot — she pretty much sums it up.
Mixing warm, New Age-suggestive electronic tones with conversational, heart-to-heart lyrics meant to stick on first listen, her work floats through space with a glistening, emotionally rich shimmer.
Coupled with the intellect and sense of history to cite how the “jazz of Hoagy Carmichael ... the artful mysticism of Alejandro Jodorowsky and the monomyth of scholar Joseph Campbell” served as thematic inspirations, the artist has arrived armed with a fully formed aesthetic.
The moody track “Movies” opens with textures that wouldn’t sound out of place scoring a David Lynch film, but midway through erupts like a Roman candle into an electric-guitar-driven anthem. On “Something to Believe,” Mering describes having “a case of the empties” while wandering in pitch-perfect tone across a vocal melody. Across the album her voice registers with similar frequencies as Aimee Mann, and like Joni Mitchell or Nina Simone, Mering is loose and carefree with her phrasing.
Cate Le Bon, “Daylight Matters” (Mexican Summer)
The new song by the Welsh ex-pat living in Northeast Los Angeles finds her leaping from one strength to another. Having issued her retreat-to-nature Drinks collaboration with Tim Presley in 2018, singer and guitarist Le Bon recently announced a new solo album called “Reward.”
Le Bon got her start as a folkie who sang in her native tongue. In hindsight, the first lines on her 2009 English-language debut, “Me Oh My,” were a kind of thematic portent: “Me oh my / My oh me / I fought the night / and the night fought me,” she sang, alluding to a pattern of loneliness unique to her work.
A decade later Le Bon is teasing the release of her fifth studio album with “Daylight Matters.” As if awakened and aching from the night-wrestling, she offers in her new song a snapshot on creativity and vanishing time: “Day in the life arranging the chairs / I’m never going to live it again,” she sings with calm resolve.
Ana Roxanne, “~~~” (Leaving)
The Mills College-trained Roxanne makes meditative work that’s perfectly suited for those needing a break from the chaotic news cycle. They used to call this brand of music New Age, but that’s too reductive a tag for the six pieces here. In attempting to categorize her music, Roxanne cites her formative experiences as “a devout choir nerd [who] found any opportunity to sing, whether for religious mass, the jazz ensemble of her Catholic high school or karaoke at family gatherings.”
Many of those inspirations can be heard on the tilde-titled “~~~,” especially the religious mass music. On “Slowness,” Roxanne opens with what sounds like the crinkle of leaves, mixes in micro-doses of electronic bleeps and gentle keyboard melodies as an emotionless male voice offers ideas on “existential mathematics.” He explains, in part, that “the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory,” and “the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.”
“It’s a Rainy Day on the Cosmic Shore” seems designed for deep, undistracted contemplation. For “I’m Every Sparkling Woman,” Roxanne vocalizes as if from some distant forest, her tones arriving as if carried in by the breeze.