In February 2012 I went to a Thurston Moore solo show at the small New Hope Winery, near Doylestown, where my dad lived at the time. Thurston’s stripped-down, sad-sack divorcee songs were pretty decent, but I was mesmerized by the opener: local artist Weyes Blood*.
Four months later I went to Siren Records on a beautiful summer night to see the Doylestown-based Weyes Blood perform to a room of about 25 people. I spoke to her briefly and purchased a hand-made copy of her only CD at the time, The Outside Room. I was actually so excited to meet her that I forgot to pay her, until she politely pointed this out as I was walking away: “Um, excuse me!” I was a dumb 17 year old… I took an awkward picture of us on my flip-phone that exists… somewhere.
So check this out: The Outside Room rules. I’m not gonna tell you it’s better than Titanic Rising, or that I was ever friends with her, or that I predicted her success (not that it really surprised me either). One thing was really clear both times I saw her live playing, as I recall, solo on a synthesizer to a small room: she was very talented (and still is)! With no fame or following she created a thick atmosphere and hypnotized the audience (or me, at least). The Outside Room rarely left the 2003 Honda Pilot that I constantly drove around in high school.
Listening to it today, it’s clear that from a young age she could write great songs. From the jump, the organ and watery echo of the drums suggest an incense-filled room, and Mering’s melodies carry you through. There’s a kind of fantastical storybook feeling: “In the pale night / When the mood changes you…” “Storms That Breed” is definitely one for the Ouija board crowd. I love it. “Romneydale” is another highlight. The guitar riff is not dissimilar to a country ballad, but among the swirling chimes and vocals it all kind of melds together into a psychedelic folk track. Things get weirder on the penultimate track, more sound-collage-y than song-based. Based, nonetheless. The closer “His Song” absolutely sounds like levitating.
It’s not surprising that she eventually worked with Ariel Pink (on a supremely underrated EP that is maybe my favorite Weyes Blood release): the lo-fi, bedroom pop style is indebted to his early classics. And maybe it’s just that “Candyboy” is titled similarly to “Chocolate Girl” (both killer songs), but this album also reminds me of Animal Collective’s early lo-fi classic Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. I think that fans of that release will quickly appreciate The Outside Room. It’s also worth noting that this album was mastered by Graham Lambkin. I don’t think that Weyes Blood plays these songs anymore (I haven’t seen her in nine years), but it’d be cool to see them adapted to her current style!
Listen to The Outside Room here.
*The original article on NJ.com had this to say: “Weyes Blood (first name Natalie) has been around since the mid ’00s and is a conventional folk artist.”