Natalie Mering, otherwise known as Weyes Blood, describes her fourth album as ‘The Kinks meet the Second World War, or Bob Seger meets Enya.’ I’m not entirely sure how accurate that depiction is, but then Titanic Rising is proving a difficult album to nail down. I hear glimpses of Joni Mitchell, Perfume Genius, Ariel Pink, and even a flash of Muse. The variety on show is quite extraordinary, and it’s something that separates this work from the recent releases of artists like Julia Jacklin, and perhaps even Courtney Barnett. Whilst I wouldn’t claim Titanic Rising to be a masterpiece, I’d rank it alongside many of this decades finest pop albums without hesitation. And there’s been quite a few of those.
Titanic Rising stands out because of its bold and forthright ambitions. It deals in extremes, and that will likely put off a small fraction of listeners, but the record is all the better for it. The stunning climax “Movies” wouldn’t be so powerful if it wasn’t for the chamber-pop ballads that surround it. It’s quite the elegant journey — perhaps too faint for its own good at times — but it largely works due to the sheer variety of the songs themselves. Titanic Rising goes above and beyond to attempt something extraordinary, and even if it doesn’t quite reach those desired heights, Weyes Blood deserves serious commendation. Despite its glistening arrangements and ethereal production, this is a cheesy, yet excellently realised, pop album at heart.8 10
Favourite tracks // Movies
This was a strange listening experience. Titanic Rising is lush, ornate, and not terribly gripping. Its arrangements are as intricate as anything likely to be released this year, yet I couldn’t tell you my standout moments. I’m not even sure I have standout moments. The record is too airy for that. Too ethereal. Instead of resting on catchy hooks or a restless rhythm section, Titanic Rising tries to weave something bigger.
This is a lot bolder than most of the albums we’ve listened to this year. Natalie Mering’s vocals float above a kind of orchestral ambience, where synths and grand piano alike take on a ghostly pop tint. It’s very impressive. Whether it’s more than that I’m not sure. I honestly find it kind of impenetrable — hence the solitary favourite track — but it sure is pretty. The ambition outweighs the execution, though not by much.7 10
Favourite tracks // A Lot’s Gonna Change
Titanic Rising is warm and bold. Often sounding closer to a cinematic score from the tail end of the 20th century, it throws hints of nostalgic, mid-century Americanisms into its instrumentals then drapes an assortment of strings and synths across the tracklist.
This latest album is certainly a stronger entry than a lot of the singer/songwriter releases we’ve seen of late, and while the instrumental may tug at nostalgia, Mering’s lyrics don’t shy away from modernity in all its positive and negative lights. This contrast makes for a weird and wonderful mix of Joni Mitchell, dramatic synth pop and sentimental film scores and for many moments throughout the album, it can sound incredibly beautiful.
“Movies” is a stand out track for sure, with its eerie, electronic motif and multi-vocal line, it unfurls for the first half of its track until shrill strings punctuate proceedings to produce a dazzling grand finale to the six-minute track. “Andromeda” has a satisfying country twang to it too, and Mering’s vocal is particularly excellent here.
Upsettingly, all praise for the overall sound has to be caveated with the fact that I probably won’t return this album as a whole. Namechecked tracks aside, I soon find myself lost and weary in the swelling, nostalgia filled, emotive instrumentals, and despite its slight, forty-two minute play time, I’ve found some listens to be a bit of a slog! It’s a brilliantly put together album for sure, and my favourites may even hold strong and find themselves in my favourite singles of the year. Unfortunately, that fact isn’t enough to hold the rest of the album up.7 10
Favourite tracks // Movies