Natalie Mering has a track record of pushing boundaries. Thus far in her career, she’s had the odd ability to always seem left-field and out of the ordinary, yet fit seamlessly into multiple indie music circles. Over time, her experimental tendencies constructed a unique discography consisting of artful fusions of chamber pop and ‘70s-inspired singer-songwriter music. At their most bare and deliberate, her songs are chilling and suspenseful. When lavishly produced, they possess a shocking yet angelic quality.
Now on her fourth solo release, Mering’s expansive vision of song, enriched sound pallet and obsession with concept have manifested into her most ambitious and beautiful creation yet, Titanic Rising. Her boldest and most daring album to date, Mering’s latest is filled cover to cover with epic orchestral arrangements and stunning vocal performances. It’s larger-than-life sound falls in line with its central theme: the grandeur of cinema and the obsession over the imaginary worlds which movies create within the mind.
“A Lot’s Gonna Change” introduces the album’s cinematic structure, delivering a nostalgic letter to a child in the style of an ominous piano ballad. The wailing string section and escalating key progression create so much tension, the song feels as if it’s on the verge of a violent crash, but Weyes Blood’s majestic voice holds the track together in harmony as it rises and falls. “Something to Believe” also works as a slow-building confessional, incorporating cartoonish accents of slide guitar that amplify the song’s already dreamy atmosphere. The song’s beauty almost has a Disney-like quality to it. From the booming eruptions in instrumentation to the singable and heartwarming lyrics on the chorus, to the way Weyes Blood’s voice hovers in the air as she gracefully repeatedly calls out the title on the final refrain, it’s not hard to visualize the track as a signature tune in a classic princess movie.
The record’s most ethereal song comes on “Andromeda,” a spacious, slow-burner that fits right in at the top of any stargazing playlist. The ringing synthesizer underlying the track serves as the bassline for Weyes Blood’s extraterrestrial crooning and drives home the sincerity of the intergalactic vibes, further establishing the album’s alternate reality. In the same vein, “Movies” is another warped out production and perhaps the album’s thematic focal point – an ode to film and the fulfillment it brings to people’s lives. Weyes Blood’s layered vocals ascend into a heavenly register so rich and atmospheric, it induces a sensation you’d imagine could only be associated with actually levitating. The hypnotic feeling “Movies” creates provides ample space for the narrative to flow; the song’s tension-filled climax alludes to just how potent one’s imagination can be, especially when probed by the perfect fantasy.
The execution of each pristine detail on Titanic Rising is maybe the album’s most impressive quality (aside from it’s sheer beauty). The hand of Jonathan Rado surely made a big impact on the album’s recording process as well, and while his touch is felt on numerous songs, he feels most present on the sunny “Everyday,” a catchy piano tune that recalls the simple, yet irresistible melodies of The Beatles and the Beach Boys. The upbeat chorus covers up Weyes Blood poking fun at the neediness in modern-day relationships.
“Wild Time” and “Picture Me Better” round out the record on a tender note. The former dips back into the sublime molds of instrumentation heard at the very beginning of the album, with Weyes Blood delivering one of her most poignant performances on the singing end. The latter is more of a traditional human to human love song, filled with endearing poetry set to a swooning string section. The title (“Picture Me Better”) continues to play on the theme of drawing hope from fantasy; “waiting for the call from the great beyond, waiting for something with meaning to come through.”
If Titanic Rising was Weyes Blood setting out to make a definitive record, she absolutely nailed it, completely forging her own artistic path in the process. Aesthetically-driven and conceptually focused, Titanic Rising is a masterpiece of song craft and production. It’s adventurous in spirit and poses interesting ideas worth revisiting many times over. Because the music is so utterly gorgeous, it’s easy to get lost in the fireworks, and in turn, that blindness allows for even deeper discovery. In embracing and reflecting on the undeniable magic of movies, Weyes Blood has created her own cinematic universe, one of breathtaking allure and poise. Few albums in recent memory are as strikingly beautiful.
Favorite tracks: A Lot’s Gonna Change, Andromeda, Everyday, Something to Believe, Movies, Picture Me Better