Since 2016’s ‘Front Row Seat to Earth’, Weyes Blood has worked with Ariel Pink, Jerry Paper and Drugdealer. But ‘Titanic Rising’, her fourth full-length and first on Sub Pop, shows that it’s from when she’s in control that emerge some of her most convincing and heartfelt songs.
‘Lot’s Gonna Change’ finds Mering casting a backwards glance to her girlhood and the album she wanted to make. About 20 seconds in a phrase similar to that of ‘Storms That Breed’, the opening track on debut ‘The Outside Room’, appears, although here it sounds chirpy rather than dour, orchestral and expansive rather than muffled. It’s a neat self-referential touch that underlines her growing self-assurance: “You’re gonna be just fine” etc. etc.
This élan of stately melancholy continues on single ‘Andromeda’. But she says her dad, a former musician, suggested she write something upbeat, hence, perhaps, ‘Everyday’, the album’s jolliest – and least satisfying – moment, with its vocal group harmonies.
It’s a humanistic record rooted in the present, touching upon climate catastrophe and internet dating, even though it’s ringed by that late-60s counterculture aesthetic found across her work. There’s also a welcome veneer of tongue-in-cheek oddity – the music largely sincere and serious, the personage behind it slightly less so. Her own musical universe is one in which Ween and Joni Mitchell coexist.
The chorus of ‘Something to Believe’ begins: “I just lay down and cry”. Chances are you might too with that picked outro and the warbly rise of her voice. Ditto for ‘Movies’, which examines the industry’s bogus mythmaking and irresistible appeal. ‘Picture Me Better’ is quite anachronistic with its jaunty rhythms, old-timey progressions, the strings – besides, who writes letters nowadays? – but lines like “Waiting for something with meaning to come through” ring out, intemporal, above.
Likewise, that ‘Thee’ in the title of the final track, on which the phrase from ‘Lot’s Gonna Change’ resurfaces, could be seen as a twee throwback but reads more like a wry appropriation of the romantic topos.
‘Titanic Rising’ harnesses convention and refashions it into something singular. At once a document of this “wild time to be alive” and an escape from it, it’s often remarkably good.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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