Review Summary: sumptuous art pop from the ocean bed.
It takes only about a minute for Titanic Rising
to submerge you in baroque flourishes, Natalie Mering’s velvety voice serving as an invitation to unwind in the sound. Her voice is just so damn comfy
, the sonorous quality entrancing you before words even register. Paired with the romantic production, this could easily pass for an escapist record. Yet Mering betrays tension as she sings to her childhood self: “a lot's gonna change in your lifetime.
” Within the song, it’s a prophesy of life’s troubles. I’m more taken by the sweeping context across the album, how it induces a similar vision as the low fantasy sequence in First Reformed
. Ice caps melting in the Arctic; sea levels rising on the coastlines; coral reefs withering to extinction.
Climate change weighs heavy on Mering’s mind. Lush soundscapes are washed-out on Titanic Rising
, all the edges sanded down in the studio. Blurry and ephemeral, it's an aural dream of baroque pop that sits among the decade’s best. In thinking about Mering’s artistic drive, I keep returning to this blurb by Alex Robertson: “[Musgraves] opts to lean into her latent Romanticism – her belief that music can deliver to us a new version of ourselves and therefore of the Earth we inhabit.” Imparting a message of hope is Mering’s calling, making the scenes of Titanic Rising
feel like an act of renewal.
She wasn’t always this great: Front Row Seat to Earth
was perfectly alluring while it played, but I could never recall what transpired. Sharpening her pop instincts and crafting climaxes that truly stick are how these songs are elevated. The dewy slide-guitar of “Andromeda” is a delectable hook; “Everyday” struts with confidence gleaned from the Great American Songbook. “Movies” is the best of the singles though, an emotional centerpiece split into two halves. A synth arpeggio glimmers as the narrator yearns for the clarity of life on the theater screen. And then of course we get the realization, a dizzying climax that tears a hole in your song of the year list. That naïve ecstasy captures the striving of Titanic Rising
, where pockets of anxiety are refuted by the sheer awe of being alive.
A closing trio soothes with a steady drift back to the surface. The cavernous lurch of “Mirror Forever” becomes a frank acknowledgement of climate despair on “Wild Time”. Bittersweet and aching, Mering grapples with pessimism and molds it into a form that can move us forward: “it’s time for you to slowly let these changes make you more holy and true / otherwise you just made it complicated for nothing.
” It’s a resonant line that understands the feeling of scrolling past dire warnings on our newsfeeds, how that brain clutter leaves us to flounder. It takes intentionality in how we live and act to even begin addressing the challenges ahead.
The strings of “Lot’s Gonna Change” recur on the closing instrumental, yet with distinctly crisp production. It’s an emergence from water that gives you time to reorient yourself in the world, hopefully with acquired joy. Titanic Rising
is an enthralling work, a space to sit in tension with crises until you find something to believe. It’s also some of the best art pop in years - revel in it.