WHEN NATALIE MERING begins to sing on "Land of Broken Dreams," the first song from the stunning new Weyes Blood album, The Innocents, her voice is warm and dusky and inviting, like a pool of water that feels safe for diving even though you can't see much beyond the surface.
Despite the swirl of noise around her—chiming strings, distant whistles, rubbery thwacks, a thunderous boom—Mering's elegant, amaranthine vocals sound like they're from another time. Thirty seconds in, she seems to corroborate this feeling:
"What lies right in front of me can't feel as good as it used to be."
Mering's official bio contains several paragraphs about a 1961 horror film and 19th century writer Henry James, and The Innocents receives regular comparisons to the British folk revival of the mid-20th century. Still, Mering is 26 years old, and though she says she feels like she has lagged behind her generation—"I was still stuck in this Gen X world and not participating in the millennial one," she says—she finds modern art to be "more poignant" because, well, it's modern.
"It's recent, and I can relate to the artist as a generational peer having to cope with modernity as it is now," Mering writes in an email interview. "That said, art is art. Old or not, its measure of timelessness is also a measure of its effectiveness in doing what I feel like great art does—unify and create meaning from the human experience."
According to an interview with the Fader last year, Mering picked up the guitar at age six and soon began trying to alter its sound by sticking pencils in the fretboard. In school just outside Philadelphia, she started throwing rock shows, but struggled to find people to play with because of her interest in experimenting with sound. Eventually, she decided to play solo and took on the name Weyes Blood.
The Innocents is her second album, and it finds Mering dialing down her experimental tendencies in favor of dramatic, vocal-focused folk songs built atop minimal instrumentation (and, yes, intermittent noise and electronics). To call it folk music is fair, but this is not one woman, her guitar, and a stool.
"I can get down with all kinds of folk, but ultimately I feel like the Celtic influence is the most audible [on The Innocents]," Mering says. "I know a bit about British folk and I do love it, but I'm definitely more influenced by Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett than Pentangle. When it comes to other Celtic and Scottish musics, Enya is huge for me and so is the Incredible String Band."
Across the record, Mering mixes ageless and adventurous sounds. "Some Winters" features a gorgeous vocal melody set against a piano part that warbles like it was recorded in an underwater cave. "Requiem for Forgiveness" and "Montrose" both build from buzzy synths; the former swells into a choral crescendo, the latter fades into found sounds. And "Hang On" and "Ashes" are relative rockers that give The Innocents a bit more modern heft.
Mering grew up in the '90s in a home with "very musical" and encouraging parents, and a mainstream culture that embraced the underground. She says Nirvana made her realize that "rock 'n' roll was deconstructing itself," and that she worried she'd "missed music" because she was so young when that band happened, and then ended.
"[My dad would] always tell me not to worry, another wave would come," Mering says. "You could imagine my disappointment when the next wave was Hanson and the Spice Girls!"