Titanic Rising, Natalie Mering's latest album from her long-running project Weyes Blood, invites the listener in with a comforting, somewhat nostalgic sound. But beneath that warm, dream-pop bed of music is a flood of anxieties about climate change, finding love and a friend's suicide.
Mering, 30, does a lot of talking to her younger self on this album and sees the track "A Lot's Gonna Change," as the theme of the entire record: "Learning how to cope with these changes in a way that doesn't completely bog you down in a sense of hopelessness," she explains.
There's also a strong sense of larger-than-life, celestial wonder on this album. On the track "Movies," Mering remembers how the 1997 blockbuster Titanic had a profound impact on her, but in a different context than most her age.
"I actually took the whole lack of dominion over nature, hubris of man message home. My takeaway from that film wasn't the love story but, really just like, 'Oh man, look at look at these rich men.' ... The third class you know gets screwed," Mering says. "To me, that was the big message and it was almost like putting a match on a wet blanket in terms of its impact politically."
While some tracks like "Something to Believe" feel big picture and abstract, other cuts get deeply personal. "Picture Me Better," is about a friend who took his own life around the time Mering was writing this album.
"It caught all of us completely off guard and the absurdity of it was just so all-encompassing and insane," Mering says, explaining that the song's message has a lot to do with perception. "Everybody is constantly putting themselves under a microscope in terms of their productivity and their financial success and this whole idea of 'Picture Me Better,' like picture me, you know, who I'm supposed to be versus, you know, just accepting who we all are."
Mering spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about writing Titanic Rising, relatable loneliness and life in an age mediated by screens. Hear their conversation at the audio link.