Review Summary: Front and center...
“Do you need me the way I need you?” Natalie Mering repeats over a dense wall of harmony with exuberant clarity. By now, she has a profound knack for echoing the intensity of her tracks with her voice. She is quick to adapt to her sonic surroundings; on Front Row Seat to Earth,
she sounds more in her element than she ever has. Natalie has an uncanny ability to seamlessly shift from vulnerable to earth-shatteringly confident in a matter of seconds. She is constantly cognizant of the feelings she wishes to convey, as is apparent in the calculated intricacies of the crescendoing composition ‘Used to Be.’
‘Be Free’ begins with the sounds of children playing, and goes on to progress into a simultaneously ethereal and down to earth tune. “How do I get through to you?” she laments, as instruments add and subtract beneath the backdrop of her piercing vocal delivery. Halfway through, she conforms her voice to the melody, before abruptly shifting to a sparse combination of acoustic guitar and vocals. This is a clear indication of Natalie’s emotional keenness, a facet of her character that is obvious throughout the record.
The languid, short lived Wilson-esque harmonies at the front of ‘Generation Why’ incite an intense longing consistent with Natalie’s expressed desire for self-actualization. These harmonies see their resurgence in abundance as they are gently phased through the string-and-vocal track ‘Can’t Go Home.’ These compelling undertakings are coyly employed throughout the record, rewarding the patient listener. Another notable example is towards the tail end of the record on ‘Away Above.’ Here, Natalie enlists the services of a slowly crescendoing bassline whose influence eventually becomes thunderous.
Sonically, this is easily her most ambitious work to date. At times, Natalie employs lush instrumentation and baroque elements that would make Victoria LeGrand proud. This experimentation is employed such that she is not lending herself entirely to indulgence; it is clear that her artistic intentions still lie within folk music. Additionally, it’s safe to assume that no one involved in the mixing and mastering of this record will be chastised for lack of clarity. These songs are teeming with honesty, and their outward lucidity is held responsible for delivering the messages they carry.
The listener is able to derive from Front Row Seat to the Earth a tangible poignancy; it seems as though Natalie’s words rest somewhere equidistant between her heart and our ears. It’s a closeness that has always been apparent in her music, and it doesn’t suffer because of the record’s increased complexity. Conversely, it serves to further the emotional intensity of the album as a whole, thereby emphasizing Natalie’s artistic maturity. Natalie Mering has proven herself through her impassioned ballads, and Front Row Seat to Earth
is a testament to this fact.