Eerie and tender, real and escapist, ‘Titanic Rising’ is Weyes Blood taking the unnerving things happening around us and glazing them with beauty and an air of fantasy.
“The movies I watched when I was a kid, the hopes and the dreams don’t give credit to the real things… I love the movies,” Weyes Blood muses in “Movies,” dramatic, deep vocals trailing slowly over the eery restless of spacey synths. The musician’s fourth album Titanic Rising was released April 5 via Sub Pop, but it’s the kind of thing that can be revisited at any time, not losing relevancy or fading with each listen but maintaining the same essence of captivation. Like all of Weyes Blood’s music, Titanic Rising is immersive – taking disconcerting happenings from the world around us and glazing them with a beauty and air of fantasy. It’s reality but it’s also escapism. It’s like, one could argue, being transported into a movie.
“Titanic Rising” – Weyes Blood
There are songs on the album that particularly evoke this. “Andromeda” flows hypnotically with the sound of subtly distorted synths, an effect created by hooking up two looped tapes. It recalls the soundscape of the decaying looped tapes that make up William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops- short melodies eerily dragged out and muffled to the point of (as is the case with his “dlp. 1.1”) fading into sad jumpy nothingness. Similar techniques feature throughout Titanic Rising, notably present with the instrumental title track midway through that’s like a depiction of a lonely and calm attempt of swimming up from the deep sea. ‘Living in the rising tide/ Our life, a feeling that’s moving/ Running on a million people burning/ Don’t cry, it’s a wild time to be alive’ she sings in “Wild Time”, drawing further attention to climate change and finding a sense of belief amidst hopelessness. With the opener “A Lot’s Gonna Change”, a build up of sinister instrumentation pulls the listener in before it disappears into an endearing burst of resilience and sentimentality backed by the sound of strings and piano. These kind of atmospheres feel like a soundtrack, orchestrally setting a scene to intensify a narrative.
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
And no good thing could be taken away
If I still believe that hearts don’t lie
You’re gonna be just fine, but, babe
A lot’s gonna change in your lifetime
Try to leave it all behind in your lifetime
– “A Lot’s Gonna Change”, Weyes Blood
For all the gloom that’s conveyed on the album, there’s a playful optimism too. There’s The Beatles’ ballads- in the buoyancy of “Everyday” and gentleness of “Mirror Forever”- and a Disney-style sweetness. It’s as though part of the success of finding solace is turning to familiar things of the past, or rather things of the past that feel ever-present because of the vintage perception attached to them. Whatever we go through, these things remain with us as a reminder of the continuation of time.
Furthermore there’s a theme of taking natural, almost mundane, aspects of daily lives and sonically elevating them. “Everyday” is conversational with its lyricism but heavily textured in its production; “Mirror Forever” and “Andromeda” address romance in the realm of online dating, their futuristic ambience giving the impression of love being a product of cyborgs. The penultimate track, “Picture Me Better”, however, is more stripped back and pure as Mering sings sentimentally about the suicide of a friend. It’s implying, perhaps, that these kind of life experiences can’t be exaggerated or mythologised because their realness needs to be respected.
The other night, I was at a party
And someone sincerely looked at me
And said, “Is this the end of all monogamy?”
And I said, “Not too bad
Then again, you might be right
Then again, sleep the night”
– “Everyday”, Weyes Blood
Each album thus far has had its own distinct mood when it comes to sound. There’s the haunting, church-like delivery of The Outside Room (2011) and the classical folkiness The Innocents (2014). The last album, Front Row Seat To Earth, is not too dissimilar to Titanic Rising, her vocals pulling you in overemotionally. ‘I might not need to stay/ On this sinking ship for long’ goes “Generation Y”, the ‘sinking ship’ being the impending doom of society. Now that ship is rising but not because things have got better but because there are alternative depictions out there that make everything so grandly special. With technological developments etc, it can be difficult to discern between what’s real and not.
And, as a result of this indistinguishability, Titanic Rising sees Weyes Blood continue to explore concepts of faith- whether it’s in oneself or other people. ‘The colours don’t align/ A question of time/ I seem to lose what I find/ Please give me a sign soon’ goes “Something to Believe”, while “Andromeda” is about finding something long-lasting in a vast landscape of unrealistic expectations and distractions. The album cover is a recreation of a teenage bedroom, a safe space of experimental and self-assured identities, strategically set up in a swimming pool. Submerged in water, the space then poses questions about the relationship had with these identities.
Picture us better
We finally found a winter for your sweater
Got a brand new big suit of armour
It’s tough, since you left I’ve grown so much
If I could have seen you just once more
Tell you how much you’re adored
There’s no point anymore
“Picture Us Better”, Weyes Blood
Weyes Blood represents an understated excessiveness and it’s one that’s also uniquely felt by the listener. With Titanic Rising, some people might be pulled in while others are just not interested. For those indifferent, it’s just another album- just more music added to the wide, never-ending stream of people creating things. But for those that are sucked in, the rushes of emotion are addictive.
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📸 © Sub Pop / Brett Stanley