Occasionally, I hit upon on a certain type of record. Let’s call them “easy to admire, harder to love” (or in text speak ETAHOL (or maybe not on reflection)).

These records are generally well written, musically skilful but not quite setting the pulse racing despite one’s brain recognising the qualities. The Divine Comedy and the National are two bands that come to mind. They should be my cup of char but I just don’t connect with them.

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I’ve been listening to Titanic Rising a great deal during April. It’s Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood’s fourth album, her first on Seattle’s Sub Pop label. It’s been produced by Jonathan Rado of Foxygen, who I last caught up with at the Spacebomb evening at the Barbican. Spacebomb isn’t a bad touchstone for Titanic Rising, musically lush with strings and keyboard textures.

Weyes Blood has created an album that is exceptionally well crafted. The melodies are clear and direct. The harmonies are deep and oceanic. Her vocals are smooth and crystalline, not a note out of place. If you are thinking Karen Carpenter, Carole King or Christine McVie, you are heading in the right direction – praise indeed.

But it just hasn’t quite clicked with me. It isn’t bad in the way that, say, the Audiobooks LP of last year was. I’m still coming back to it but it feels like I’m trying to get my head to win over my heart. It has some of the MOR textures that John Grant’s debut album had but whilst the vocals are up there, the humour that JG brings is missing. The sleeve shows Weyes floating in her bedroom and this does add to the sense of it being connected to something like Carole King’s Tapestry.

In a recent interview with Stereogum (which mostly focussed on how the sleeve was photographed), Weyes said when asked about what the record would be telling people:

I guess the aesthetic and vision is just to wake people up to the pre-conditions of your psychology. If you’ve been spending time wondering what’s wrong with you, maybe that’s what’s wrong with you.

That’s the danger with intellectually driven art rock. The idea and the execution can end up being a little dry if there isn’t a sense of humour involved that is inclusive. Take Everyday below. The video’s set in a classic 70s hangout. It’s all board games and flared trousers but a slasher movie link is crow-barred in. It just feels that we aren’t in on the joke.

I’m not ditching the album and it undoubtedly has its qualities. I’ll probably give it a go periodically in the coming months. There’s a world of music to listen to out there and I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to meet.

Written by stue1967

After taking several readings, I'm surprised to find my mind's still fairly sound

15 comments

  1. Spot on – as always. This is the type of album I know will click after a break and if I listen to it early in the morning. Alongside the problems you mention, the album doesn’t flow too well but taken individually the songs work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haven’t heard this yet, and intrigued to read your thoughts.

    I was going to see the band live the other week but dilly-dallied too long getting tickets.

    Heard their session on 6Music and thought that her voice was amazing.

    Your observation about the lack of engagement is echoed by a friend who said virtually the same thing.

    Better check it out for myself though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have a listen to the 6 Music session if I can find it. It really isn’t an unpleasant or difficult LP. The primary reason that I’ve been listening to it though is to see if I’ve been missing anything, which doesn’t seem the most convincing reason. It’s bloody hard work (relatively speaking of course).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I must admit from the description of the Viagra Boys LP (and the naff name), my expectations were low. I’ve really enjoyed the first couple of listens though, helped by Sports appearing on the Counter Culture compilation.

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  3. I felt exactly the same about this album – a lack of connection – undoubtedly well made but NOTHING on it to really excite me – something that could be levelled at a few of the recent Album of the Months… Titanic is ok but there really is too much other music out there to give this more time – both the Big Thief and Aldous Harding records for example… I sent this one back to Rough Trade and swapped it for Little Sims which I love!

    And on to Viagra Boys… Wasn’t too hopeful from the name – I’d been actively avoiding them because of it… but I’ve been pleasantly surprised – I’m really loving it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hadn’t considered swapping it but may do so now. The Little Simz record is great – bought tickets to see her later in the year.
      Viagra Boys (hate the name) record is incredibly immediate and they were fantastic at the Rough Trade in-store on Monday night.
      Out of curiosity, which other recents AOMs have you not been excited by?

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      1. Audiobooks (sent back)
        Durand Jones (sent back)
        Weyes Blood (sent back)
        Delines (rarely listen to it)

        They are incredibly nice about returning albums if you don’t like them

        Ex:Re I didn’t like on first few listens but it’s really grown on me

        And last year there were a few that I already had on pre order – Idles, Adrienne Lenker, Bodega – so my daughter ended up getting free records which she was more than happy about!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow! Loved Durand and the Delines. With you on Audiobooks though.
        Wondering if I can get away with taking back the Audiobooks LP now? I resent it taking up shelf space. Think I’ll take back Weyes Blood this week.

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      3. I don’t live in London so I post them back! Works out ok – they email a returns form so doesn’t cost anything – and they are incredibly nice about it – I always send them a review of why i don’t like it too!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. and i was astonished that snapped ankles never made their albums of the month – i’m sure there’s some funny business with record labels (ie 4ad were album of the month for Jan so Domino get Feb etc) – I imagine it’s something to do with these dinked editions that a few of the other independant shops are doing which means they have an extra special edition and rough trade don’t

    Liked by 1 person

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