Natalie Mering’s fantastic fourth album ends where it begins. As Weyes Blood – who since her 2016 EP ‘Cardomom Times’ has woven lush chamber pop around heady, heavy themes such as contemporary dystopia – she’s no stranger to conceptual complexity. And yet this rarely comes at the cost of her Carole King-style piano ballads, which are rich and instantly familiar. So although this fourth record opens and closes with dense and gothic string arrangements, the 10 songs contained within are mostly light, evocative and – above all – accessible.
Mering has said the record is partly inspired by her concerns for the environment and disgust at global warming, which has been compounded by the overall sense of doom instilled by the 24-hour news cycle and Trump’s presidency. “But I feel like I keep getting better at the ‘hope’ thing,” she told Pitchfork, “like it’s a muscle I have to exercise.” So ‘Titanic Rising’ makes you smile even as it explores existential dread. This is mainly down to her reconfiguration of late ‘60s and 1970s sounds, with tracks such as ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ and the jaunty ‘Everyday’ transporting you to Laurel Canyon in its free-spirited prime.
Before ‘Cardomom Times’, Mering explored noise rock and experimentalism and that weirdness lives on in her current incarnation. It’s right there in the underwater throb of ‘Movies’ and in the march of strings that concludes the same track. See also the doomy ‘Mirror Forever’, replete with ice-cold finger-snaps. The Summer of Love ended in bloodshed, and it’s as though Mering is looking at the seemingly idyllic era through a smeared prism.
Her last album, ‘Front Row Seat to Earth’, better navigated the middle ground between Weyes Blood’s traditional pop and experimental oddness, offering a subtler blend of chamber pop. But it’s the extremes that make ‘Titanic Rising’ so unique – and you can’t argue with an evocative ballad like ‘Something To Believe’. This is a beautiful album, informed as much her bold experimental music as by her golden age pop forebears. The record ends where it began, but Natalie Mering continues to push tirelessly and boldly ahead.