In case it wasn’t obvious by its album artwork, Weyes Blood’s latest record goes for the cinematic. For some musicians, conjuring stories using melodies means stretching the material, slowing the lyrics, and holding the notes long enough to allow them to sink into the listener. Natalie Mering does such a thing on her fourth LP, Titanic Rising.
Tracks swell with instruments and angelic choral arrangements, almost entirely set to andante rhythms. The Americana folk sound of the album suits the melodic and rhythmic choices. Here, Mering’s tales and musings sweep you away on a warm spring breeze. It carries you across songs that consider different sides of the human condition, from the pains of growing older (“A Lot’s Gonna Change”) to ingesting too much caffeine (“Something to Believe”).
Please note that Titanic Rising works well with idle activity – undertake any busy behavior and you’ll fail to hear it at all. To genuinely appreciate this album, you need to sit with it and let it wash over you.
The most powerful tool at Mering’s disposal is her voice, a rich, clear bell of a voice that pierces through the album’s pianos and lethargic strings. She floats in her middle and upper register with ease, a talent which proves instrumental for Titanic Rising. As she doles out life advice, Mering sharply adopts an authoritative yet nurturing tone which pulls listeners towards her perspective on self-involvement, stress, and the fading of relationships.
Her voice works in tandem with her lyrical wisdom. “Movies” conjures images of a screen shining brighter than “the meaning of life”, the subconscious meaning lying just beneath the gleaming surface. With this track, Mering embraces the side of ourselves which sees the individual self as the protagonist of all life. Here, that feeling is both acknowledged and celebrated – but a track later it becomes a cautionary tale of being too self-involved: “No one’s ever gonna give you a trophy/ For all the pain and the things you’ve been through.” Mering manages to balance these feelings with fairness, admitting they affect our lives but only as much as we allow them.
For example, when hardship finds its way to Mering, she manages to turn it on its head: “We finally found a winter for your sweater / Got a brand new big suit of armor,” she boasts on “Picture Me Better”. As said above, Titanic Rising offers plenty of insightful and beautiful moments, but they often struggle to make themselves all that stimulating. To be fair, this largely happens because Mering spends much of the album in celebration. Listeners are urged to relax in the uplifting sentiments Weyes blood puts forth here. All the same, when you find yourself wandering off from Mering, she struggles to bring you back in.
As times change, people must choose whether they adapt to or resist such shifts. Titanic Rising chooses to embrace these changes with ease, as evidenced by the happy-go-lucky attitude of “Everyday”. Like the Turtles’ iconic “Happy Together”, it romps along at a relaxed, soft pace, growing up into a celebratory finale. She knows that although love and romance changes, she doesn’t. She still pines for love like anyone else, and instead of acting above its evolution, she embraces it and sounds much happier for it.
Summertime arrives soon in the northern hemispheres, and Weyes Blood believes there’s no reason the living shouldn’t be easy.