Adulthood seems great, at least from a youth’s perception. Jenna Rink from Gary Winick’s “13 Going on 30” epitomizes this idea. Jenna, a lovesick, dorkish teenager, besides desperately trying to be popular, holds the belief of physical maturity as a sign of greatness. In one scene, she is stuffing her bra with tissues; in another, she is chanting in her closet, “30, flirty and thriving,” from one of her women’s magazines. It would not be hyperbolic to write that every kid in the Western world had the same behavior as Jenna, that once we reach a certain age, life will be easier and full of idyllic adventures.
At 31-years-old, Weyes Blood, a take on the Flannery O’Connor novel “Wise Blood,” debunks the optimistic myths on “Titanic Rising,” an allusion to a certain ship representing robustness at the time. Sentiments of the ‘70s are spilled throughout the ten-song tracklist, from the vocal ranges akin to Joni Mitchell (“Picture Me Better”) to the stylistic diction of The Beach Boys (“Something to Believe in”). Yet “Titanic Rising”does not place these influences on a pedestal. Instead, it makes use of its cinematic arrangements to narrate a personal story of love, hope, growing up and catastrophe.
Blood is at the heart of the scene and the conductor of the theatrics of the production. Amidst the eloquent, luscious guitar and synthesizer arrangements, Blood never fails to stay in charge. In “Andromeda,” she stretches out words to signal a change, whether it be additional harmonies or a string section. She breaks the momentum quickly after the bridge and beautifully transitions into the third verse, allowing greater lyrical depth and creating another build-up to the crescendo of pitched guitar keys and spacey etherealness.
The artwork itself serves as a template to some of the songs in the tracklist: the seemingly devastating introduction into “this bullsh*t initiation into culture” (taken from the artist in a Rolling Stone interview). Natalie Mering, Weyes Blood’s real name, stated in that segment how the media is a facade of idealistic fantasies of what life should be. Growing up, she thought about the beauties of life and adulthood only to discover the masked brokenness. She hints at this issue in the opener, “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” in which she carries the comforting notion that if she believes “hearts don’t lie/[she’s] gonna be just fine.” A metaphor in the second verse, “Born in a century, lost to memories/Falling trees...,” is a double entendre, contextually talking of these expectations and also calling out the harmful impact of humanity on the environment.
She pledges full effort into this concept with “Movies,” a track directed like one itself. An analogue-driven synthesizer plays muffledly, and Blood’s haunting vocals feel both artificial, like an actor reading their lines for the first time, and raw. A simple message unfolds: Blood just wants to live in this medium, one in which her life is uncomplicated. With a movie, one knows the exposition, the conflict and the resolution. Life is uncertain in anyone’s adventure, and often it takes a turn for the worst. In some cases, “Movies” is a foreshadowing of that disaster and a need for escapism. The outro sees pummeling percussive elements against Blood’s longing voice, cooing, “I wanna be the star of my own.”
Other tracks stray from this theme but hold it as nuance. “Wild Times,” while it describes the uncertainty of a broken relationship, contains a line, “Beauty, a machine that’s broken,” that compares to the struggle of western beauty standards. But even then, the lyrical themes are multifaceted. All the while, Blood manages to string in love into the mix, such as “Everyday” and “Andromeda,” concocting stories of facing love at its finest via modern dating and fateful findings.
And while there are ambiguous cases for what this album is meant to represent, such as uncertainties of realities, it also contextually belches out the aforementioned, inevitable disaster that fate has for us. “Picture Me Better” is the last vocal track over delicate folksy guitar strums, ending with a foreshadow. “Nearer to Thee” closes out the 42-minute LP and reprises the opener, inferring that a return to the beginning that utterly contradicts the so-called disaster plaguing the future, as “A Lot’s Gonna Change” symbolizes resilience. Perhaps “Titanic Rising” is meant as a fair warning about time itself, a line in which never stops for anybody. It is uncertain what any other subliminal message it is trying to surface, but only one thing is certain: expectations only yield inevitable heartbreaks.