In order to confront the ever-growing postmodern fears of contemporary living, Natalie Mering, aka Weyes Blood, went to a new place — one between helpless and hopeful, a place where even an ocean liner can rise from the sea more than a century after it sank. Appropriately, the noise of this specific moment is as revisionist and stylized as the titular premise, as Titanic Rising sounds like an amalgamation of the pop-rock of Mering’s parents’ generation — from ‘a simpler time,’ as baby boomers often say (and Mering might agree) — and the sensibilities of a modern singer-songwriter composing with a taste for the avant-garde. Buzzy single and album centerpiece “Movies” highlights Mering’s futuristic slant with a scalar, Tron-esque synth pitted against her own alto vocal, which laments a need to regain agency within her own life. “A Lot’s Going to Change” — the album’s opener — and “Something to Believe” contrast this moderness; both are not without their quirky licks and instrumentation choices, but the focus is placed on Mering’s Joni Mitchell-esque vocal, and on evocatively romantic sounds of folk music’s past.
Titanic Rising is an album full of contradictions, but it also seems to offer a prescription for contemporary life: fix yourself before everything goes to hell.
With one foot in the past and one in the ever-evolving present, Titanic Rising side-steps the pervasive gloominess of everyday life, but not in a hackneyed ‘Yes, We Can’ way common in centrist liberal politics. While facing global fears, Mering turns inward and becomes honest with her seemingly interpersonal issues. In “Wild Time,” she sings of a dissolved relationship, offering her partner solace from the damage that’s been caused: “Love, pain, loving you / Everyone knows you just did what you had to.” She forgives this partner between lines about devastating climate change and industries collapsing before reaching a natural conclusion: “It’s a wild time to be alive.” She works further through her lost love on “Picture Me Better,” a deceptively intimate ballad that’s heavily orchestrated, with reverb-drenched guitars, lush wind instrumentation, and beautiful choral arrangements. “It’s tough, since you left I’ve grown so much,” Mering croons, reminiscing over fond memories and reflecting on hard-learned lessons. In a truly symphonic style, Titanic Rising closes with a summarizing coda: “Nearer to Thee,” named after the fabled hymn often associated with the Titanic’s string ensemble’s final bow. It’s only here when it becomes clear what kind of trick Weyes Blood has played; she’s enraptured her listener with a beautiful soundscape, level-headed and understanding lyrics, and a silky voice, but her album is, of course, about total destruction. The idea of the Titanic returning from the deep takes on a much different meaning when Mering eulogizes rising tides and a generation stuck in a cycle of nostalgia. Titanic Rising is an album full of contradictions, but it also seems to offer a prescription for contemporary life: fix yourself before everything goes to hell.