Review | Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
Near the end of the most fruitful decade for female-dominated art pop, Natalie Mering’s fourth album Titanic Rising is her most complex and sophisticated project to date and one of the most captivating albums of 2019.
Titanic Rising encompasses a sense of nostalgia and vague longing sonically drenched in waves of aquatic ambience that hints at the past, but tries to drive towards the future. Building off the first alienating synths and piano notes on the opener ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’, Mering sets up her thesis for the album: “If I could go back to a time before now”. The song dances around the piano and magnificent strings while Natalie longs for the past in a world of struggle (“a century lost to memories”), and the album’s soundscapes and themes are set up perfectly: a hazy aquatic atmosphere, subtle and dreamy vocals, and a desire to go back for something that’s not entirely clear. Whether she had love, prosperity, or something materially beneficial in the past is not clear, but it’s clear that she wants to go back and wants to erase these changes, and these themes are reflected throughout the whole album.
With the atmosphere and general theme ingrained, Mering begins to float around even more in the celestial and the abstract with a subtle-but-clear sense of confidence, and begins to really explore her musical horizons in a way that her past projects hadn’t reached for. In ‘Andromeda’, she meanders around in her own galaxy (of the same name) and longs for a love that’s not quite there and strums the acoustic guitar in a uniquely beautiful manner, one that’s reminiscent of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (1970). And while she’ll travel through her underwater soundscapes explored in the opening duo throughout the album, she’s not afraid to take different influences and go beyond mid-tempo atmospheric sounds. ‘Everyday’ is one of the most delightful and cheerful songs on here, with bombast and almost camp choruses and an unusually upbeat manner. Weyes sails on ships to nowhere in her own world, and while true love makes a comeback, half the world still wanders in the world’s first rodeo-take that as you will. Taking after ‘60s giants like The Beach Boys and The Zombies, ‘Everyday’ is an energetic and incredible breath of sunshine in between two massive songs that traverse through melancholy.
While Mering floats in her own galaxy and has her head stuck in the clouds, Titanic Rising is firmly planted in reality. She looks at the past- what was good that isn’t good now, and what could’ve been -but also presents herself and her music in a modern and almost futuristic style, confronting the current problems and existential theories with a genuine sense of grace that can’t be removed. Once again, these present issues aren’t specified anywhere, but it’s safe to guess that a lot of her hardships are related to love and heartbreak. Whatever it is, she tries to fight it, even if it means getting stuck in her own galaxy or a different reality. Take ‘Movies’, the most complex and advanced song of this project, for example. The music video helps illustrate more clearly, but Mering escapes from the horrors of modern life into the theatre- an augmented and fraudulent form of reality, but a pleasant escape. Her line, “The meaning of life doesn't seem to shine like that screen”, already proclaims her desires to get out and get into the screen, and from the mid-way switch to the end, she essentially commands her own short film. Commands is an especially good way to describe her performance, because she never gets as feisty and powerful as she is during that second half, where it genuinely sounds like she is directing and starring in her own film in her own theatre in her own galaxy. With the synth loop running in the background, the drum machine pounding, and the strings storming, Mering successfully evades the modern problems and dives into her own triumphant treasure- the theatre.
Meanwhile, ‘Wild Time’ features Mering returning back into the harsh realities of the world and stretches out the album’s romanticism and existentialism for 6 lush and desolate minutes. In a mysterious way, she emphasizes living in the present- in this case, the wild time- and forgetting the past and burning everything down. Lastly, she closes the album off with more past memories, in a beautiful folk song enriched with strings and an atmosphere that’s cozy and inviting, but also a bit eerie and foreshadowing of things to come. In ‘Picture Me Better’, she longs for a past love that seems to be lost in space or on Earth, and she gently yet rawly depicts her memories and her dreams, and doesn’t leave much room for vagueness and criticism.
Throughout Titanic Rising, Natalie Mering faces an uncertain future with confidence and grace, but she also showcases her raw emotions and her genuine desire to break free from what is real and escape into reality, whether it’s space or the theatre, or maybe both (space operas are certainly nothing new). As she maneuvers her way through her own galaxy of Andromeda, she explores her past memories of heartbreak and loss and confronts her existing problems, leaving an aquatic and surreal work of art that brings a new sense of innovation and beauty to the world.
Best song: Movies
Worst song: Titanic Rising