Music Reviews
Titanic Rising

Weyes Blood Titanic Rising

(Sub Pop) Rating - 9/10
There's something pleasantly romantic about Titanic Rising, Natalie Mering's latest pop opus. And yet there are hardly any references to star-crossed lovers or distant sojourns—it just sounds romantic. It's easy to forget that sometimes the lushest musical experiences don't need to have some "important" conceptual theme; majesty and love don't have to cohabitate together, after all.  Except that the preciousness inherent within Mering's fourth release—who goes by Weyes Blood—comes from understanding that there's meaningful value in who you are, no matter how small we appear to be inside this vast universe. It's a better way to approach Mering's mystifying ode to be alive, even if to get to that state of mind it's necessary to understand that everything can fall apart at any second. 
Again, it may sound obtuse or even puzzling to think of these grand ideas when this is just a pop record. Mering isn't even crossing uncharted territory here. Ever since she released her 2011 full-length debut The Outside Room, the L.A. based artist has schemed offbeat, avant-garde albums with an equally earthy melodic sense. She's turned less esoteric and more grounded, more amenable to classic songwriting conventions (or at least conventional in the way it used to be back in the 1970s). So there is some of that quaint, sun-dappled Laurel Canyon charm in Titanic Rising, but it's also spacier and less jam-driven. It wants to make you soar but also avoids any rustic, antiquated principles. It's meant to be anachronistic, though perhaps that's what makes the album sound fresh and modern.
Big, heavy drum fills punctuate the steady piano keys of album opener A Lot's Gonna Change, where a swooning Mering accepts that every passing complication seems moot in the grand scheme of things. Her deep, yet honeyed drawl—bearing a striking resemblance to Karen Carpenter's— adds a dramatic flair to the song's orchestral backdrop. Titanic Rising sounds positively spectral, and not just because she opted to title one of the tracks Andromeda; regardless, she looks to the sky for answers over a cosmic country style that sounds open, yet intimate. She fluidly transitions from the lithe psychedelic touches of 2016's Front Row Seat to Earth by applying a painterly—though no less natural—stroke to a well-remembered seventies FM radio sound.
Co-producer Jonathan Rado—of Foxygen fame—helped Mering enhance the production with lilting chamber arrangements. Something to Believe begins as a bare piano confessional, and you'd immediately think that they're both channeling a Carole King/Gerry Goffin pairing. Except that as Believe progresses, it develops into something bigger—the shimmering album centerpiece sounds like a ballad but still has a touch of psychedelic sweetness (think Super Furry Animals' artfully warped Rings Around the World). Movies sounds otherworldly, like entering one of Badalamenti's angelic synth orchestrations, as Mering fancies the cinema's bewitching escapism. But there's also an unsettling beauty to the song's ending, where shrill violins distort the fantasy as if witnessing Camilla's (or is that Diane?) dreams crumble in the final moments of Mulholland Drive.
Otherwise, Mering shows a positive bearing throughout Titanic Rising. Her blitheful optimism stands out more when the compositions are simpler. There's still that classic California sound aesthetic on Everyday, but behind the opulent strings and the hopping harmonies, it's a piano-driven romper about wanting to reclaim that euphoric feeling of true love. Never does she lament not having it, and instead, remembers how great it made her feel. On Picture Me Better, a plaintive acoustic guitar—arranged as a resplendent country ballad—comforts her as she waits for some divine intervention. She's at her most vulnerable right at the very end—wishful but not wistful, thinking about a love that once made her feel invincible. 
Despite Mering's sonic flights of fancy, Titanic Rising is a lean, 40-minute recording that carefully considers her performative sentiments with fine craftsmanship. No emotions go astray—every full-hearted melody here stirs a passion in both subject matter and skill. She gives closer Nearer to Thee the grand finish it deserves—a subtle reprise to A Lot's Gonna Change—with swelling strings bringing closure to her expansive musical odyssey. She outwardly communicates her deepest questions with monumental ambition, though it sounds like an afterthought when paired alongside her hapless, intimate melancholy. Mering aims high to amplify the smallness of our self-concerns, to seeks out a love that could defy time and space in our minds. [Believe the Hype]