Natalie Mering’s fourth album as Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising, is a satisfying and mostly engaging work that perfectly utilizes the tension between Mering’s dark, emotive vocals and the sunnier, often serene music that supports them. While the title apparently wasn’t meant to allude to the faux Titanic sequel created by characters of the podcast and television series Homecoming, it would have been entirely apt if it was. In that context, Titanic Rising was a practical joke—a lie created and supported by a group of friends all to mess with one other—but one which became a real thing to the lied-to, as well as a sort of beacon of life after war, something to look forward to. Mering’s album examines related feelings: the desire to find something larger than life to pull you out of yourself, as well as the specific power that movies can have to lift you out of reality. The notion of your little bit of salvation being someone else’s joke would also be an appropriately dark lesson that fits alongside Mering’s teachings here about adjusting to life’s unpredictability.
The imagery created through this succinct title is also somehow perfectly appropriate, evoking something long-submerged rising to the surface, perhaps even with a renewed purpose that the action-title verb suggests. Mering’s songs here do contain a thread of that level of resiliency; of pulling something out of your own inner depths to find your strength. The album begins slowly but surely with “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” in which Mering gently warns the listener that a lot will change in their lifetime and that no situation or relationship is guaranteed to last or be consistent. It sounds on paper like a bracing, even cynical statement, but it’s true more often than not and with Mering’s rich voice and the atmospheric production, what she’s saying doesn’t sound cynical or bitter. Rather, she sounds as though she is passing down what she has had to learn to you, in the hopes that you can learn sooner than she did.
Two of the album’s most accessible tracks—and early singles—then follow “A Lot’s Gonna Change.” “Andromeda” is an instantly involving and mini emotional epic, while “Everyday” is the closest thing to a pop single on the album. With its Carol King-esque piano beats and hand claps, “Everyday” is the clearest example of the ‘70s singer-songwriter, soft rock influence that can be found throughout Titanic Rising, and while it starts simple enough it builds to a climax of backing vocals and drums that layer into something completely different than the beginning of the song. It happens a lot on Titanic Rising that you find yourself being swept along on the waves of a track only to find yourself listening to something completely different when it ends four minutes later.
The biggest song on the album is the simply titled “Movies.” It slips into the center of the album and almost overshadows the couple of songs that come after it. Here Mering explores the love of movies that turns into the love of how they make life look, and how that love then results in you comparing your own reality and finding it lacking. Mering explores this tension with appropriately cinematic vocals and sharp strings supporting her realization that she wants to finally feel like the star of her own movie.
Mering’s voice conveys oceanic depths on “Movies,” and on every single track here, making Titanic Rising eminently listenable and dramatically engaging. The often beautiful production buoys the unique, dark tone of her voice that could easily make a song more maudlin than it really is. Rather, the two elements mix expertly to craft a listening experience that eases you in and engages you seamlessly, without making the listening experience a dour chore. Every track comes to you like a wave on the ocean, making a strong impression and then falling back when it has done its job. Titanic Rising is a rewarding listen, and although a few later tracks fade a bit too quickly, the atmosphere and imagery created through the first two-thirds create an album that is definitely worth spending some time with.