be the cowboy? sure!

by andrewsalerno

If you’ve never heard of Mitski Miyawaki before, I would preface this article by saying she’s a Japanese-American indie rocker, whose songs are volatile and charged with rhythm s and lyrics are unwaveringly dripping with emotion. I remember the first time I heard a Mitski song, I was a junior in high school and I had accidentally stumbled across the music video for “Your Best American Girl” in what most likely was a high school-caused depressive episode. The song started so sweetly, with her airy angelic voice guiding me through the first third of the song, then the chorus hit and she went the fuck in on her electric guitar like it was nobody’s business. It was the perfect marriage of anger and sadness, and I was entranced by her.

Flash forward 4 years later, and Mitski dropped her fifth studio album Be the Cowboy. Released on August 17th, this 14-song record may be her most experimental album to date, and that’s a great thing. Reading an interview with Mitski, she said that this album was an evolution of her previous work in terms of instrumentals and production. Tonally, Be the Cowboy retains the melancholy beauty and striking intensity she’s known for.

“Geyser” is the first track on the album and is the perfect embodiment of her overall sound. It starts with a chilling echo-y verse, with her voice set against some ambient electronic beats. As the song goes on, we start to hear the violin, and then the piano, and then the drums. Then all at once, the song crescendos and we hear the full sound burst through–like a geyser. It’s extremely on the nose, but in the most amazing way.

The second single off of the album, “Nobody” might be one of the most different things she’s done musically: it’s both a song you can cry to and a song you can dance to. The lyrics say “I want to die” but the song says, “Hey I wanna dance in my underwear!”. Right off the bat, the drums and piano set the mood with a unique kind of moody but high energy feeling. Using a lot of piano in her songs is something Mitski hasn’t done since her first album Lush, but for this record she uses it in spectacular fashion, especially in “Nobody”.

Be the Cowboy closes with “Two Slow Dancers”, the last single and a fitting end to her glorious piece of work. In true fashion, this song is an intimate ballad yearning for the simplicity of young love. With minimal backing featuring only some piano and strings towards the end, the true focus of the track is the delivery of the lyrics. They’re so simple yet so powerful, and they linger with you even after the track cuts off. If you ever need to lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling for a long time, this is a great song for that!

This album may not be my favorite Mitski favorite album, but it is absolutely a stunning culmination of all her work as an artist so far. Be the Cowboy is one of the most rich and endearing albums of the year, and it is not to be missed.

Categories: andrew salerno, culture, tunes


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