Titanic Rising/Weyes Blood (2019)
Produced by Natalie Mering & Jonathan Rado|SubPop
Climate collapse is a disturbingly real thing for children through twentysomethings, despite what octagenarian and baby boomer deniers may say. What art emerges out of the anxiety and uncertainty of a future without clean air, rising sea levels, and decimated populations? Would you believe a hearkening back to Karen Carpenter and Harry Nilsson with a dash of primitive Christian music tossed in? Natalie Mering, better known as Weyes Blood, has put out her fourth studio album Titanic Rising this year and it evokes the moods associated with an unclear future so beautifully by mixing modern producing with nostalgic warm sounds.
Thirty-year-old Mering is an incredibly spiritual person but not dogmatic; she appreciates the idea of the ethereal unknown which shows in the sound of her music and the ethereal themes woven through her lyrics. Mering is also very modern in how she sees the spiritual in going to the movie theater and reflection on the scope of distant galaxies in comparison to her plight. This isn’t pop music in the traditional sense, and it’s not experimental, I want to say it’s the future. A style of music that is intended for the youth, not pandering or artificial and speaking to a more profound philosophy.
Weyes Blood opens the album with “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” the most Carpenter-esque of the pieces. This begins as a nostalgic lamentation by the singer, evoking ideas of a more relaxed time as a child:
If I could go back to a time before now
Before I ever fell down
Go back to a time when I was just a girl
When I had the whole world
Gently wrapped around me
This wistful speaker seems to be admonishing another, younger person:
Falling trees, get off your knees
No one can keep you down
If your friends and your family
Sadly don’t stick around
It’s high time you learned to get by
The song comes to a quiet conclusion as the singer, realizing the harshness with which they’ve spoken to the other, and come into a higher state of empathy, no longer seeking to correct but instead listen:
Let me change my words
Show me where it hurts
In later songs we have speakers overwhelmed by a series of defeats, calling out for some force greater than themselves not as a spiritual guide, but as a reminder that the universe is beyond their small bubble (Something to Believe). In “Andromeda,” the impossible expectations assigned to a romantic relationship are contemplated by the singer. The world has overwhelmed them with grand, epic imaginations of love and as a result, they are burnt out, challenging the listener to try and love them if they can. “Movies” is a cosmic ballad that will evoke the feelings of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti’s emotional songs from Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. Much like the work of David Lynch, the album oozes with a stark earnest nature, unconcerned about allowing the music to crescendo into melodrama. Because Natalie Mering is so committed to her performance, it eschews parody and ends up becoming transcendent.
While a song like “Movies” is presented in an earnest voice, it is not the personal belief of Mering that “The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen.” Instead, Mering is interested in presenting the voices of a generation that has been sold corporate media as an ideal, whether it is blockbuster movies or television preachers selling the prosperity gospel or a television series presenting a distorted and idealized depiction of love. Mering believes in the sentiment of the voices that cling to these notions, but she disagrees with their truth. The speakers are always stargazers, lost in a world of disappointment where life has become too violent and harsh, so they have become romantics as a coping mechanism.
Mering’s work is a bittersweet love, heartbreak attempting to shine it on and keep moving, believing that the next chance will be better. Her voices learn as the song progress, either being judgmental or despondent, actively engaged in conversation though. By the end they have made some realization, maybe not earth shattering but profound and meaningful. There is a sense that something bigger has to lie beyond the veil of space and stars and they just haven’t found it quite yet:
Waiting for the call from beyond
Waiting for something with meaning
To come through soon