Have you cried lately? No? Then put on Titanic Rising and get to it. The newest album from Weyes Blood, the Flannery-O’Connor-inspired moniker for the musician Natalie Mering, takes an emotional, no holds barred dive through a sonic landscape of desire, glory, loneliness, and, ultimately, hope.
In her fourth studio album, Weyes Blood plumbs the depths of these feelings and dredges up her subject matter with masterful scrutiny and compassion. Each experience is catalogued with simple language that weaves together the routine (See lyrics like “Drank a lot of coffee today” and “You got it all in spades /Got a lot of dreams and songs to say”) into a baroque tapestry. There is a snapshot quality to her songs. They stand alone just fine, but when taken as a whole, feel wildly transformative and suggest narrative arcs that expand with each listen. This says a lot in an algorithm culture where artists have the length of a song (or less) to get into the listener’s head. Meanwhile, Weyes Blood is busy making earworms of a different colour.
Across the length of the album, Titanic Rising stays true to its name: it’s huge, and it’s going somewhere. There is an inexhaustible amount of inspiration, heroes, and sounds referenced musically. A first listen through brought to mind the works of Judee Sill, Margo Guryan, and Connie Converse, who’s plaintive, literary storytelling was often wrapped around the singer’s own mystique. The complex instrumentation and cerebral melodies point towards Natalie’s long love of Harry Nillson, with Gene Clark and George Harrison wedged in for good measure. “Everyday,” the third song on the record, sounds like what would happen if Joni Mitchell was asked to lead a marching band through a rousing Sousa number.
Ultimately, Titanic Rising is a feat of cohesion. “An album is like a Rubik’s Cube,” Natalie writes in the liner notes, “Sometimes you get all the dimensions—the lyrics, the melody, the production—to line up.” The music is so encompassing that it’s easy to imagine Natalie as a galactic divine being, hovering over her complex design with care. She’s a singular world-builder who has harnessed her obsessions to make something new out of the referential. Often a common ode of advice from teachers in creative writing classrooms, “write what you know” and “follow your obsessions” seems extremely apt here—and we are lucky that Natalie’s background is steeped in everything from renaissance music, gospel choirs, southern literature, to of course, the 1997 blockbuster ‘The Titanic’. The narrative of Titanic Rising nods to apocalyptic world endings and the ironies of modern love, but the joy of following a singular woman’s journey through a universe of her own making is what catapults this album skyward.