Mitski
Be the Cowboy


3.8
excellent

Review

by owl beanie STAFF
August 17th, 2018 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "QUEEN IT’S WHAT YOU DESERVE GET THAT RECOGNITION"

Watching the Genius video for Mitski’s single “Nobody” is just, uh, absolutely fucking absurd.

Mitski Miyawaki sits, buoyant, bubbly, explaining this gutwrenching song about crushing loneliness with the gleaming smile of someone who has only been paying attention to the jazzy instrumental and not the words bouncing across the surface. Ha ha ha ha “[Nobody was]…literally me in a semi-fugue state on my hands and knees just crying” ha ha ha ha. It’s all very funny. It’s like we’re a close friend and she’s being perfunctory because, you know, it’s happened, and she’s moved on -- distilled this sadness into beautiful little vignettes, released them out into the world, and now she’s bracing herself for the next bout of neuroses.

Because while Mitski wrestles with sadness and isolation in her songs a lot (a lot, you guys, this point is worth stressing), she’s also somehow (we’ll get to that later) relatable in other ways. I’m pretty sure I’ve beaten the dead horse on using the phrase “deeply human” already, but on Be the Cowboy, the singer-songwriter deftly weaves other themes – all related in some way to her sense of vulnerability-- into her central conceit like they’re minor characters in a particularly histrionic dramatic novel. Desperation flits in and out, Boredom is captured succinctly and accurately (Old Friend), Momentary Hope gets happy and then its smile dies on its lips just as the teeth are coming out of hibernation.

Maybe it feels like the album dies prematurely. too. Be the Cowboy is 32 minutes, only 2 of the songs stretch past the 3-minute mark, but to sell it as a setback, I think, would be a mistake. There’s such a rush to these songs and, resultingly, it feels like Mitski is hurrying to capture something before it dissolves into smoke. It’s ephemeral because life is. Criticisms will invariably lament perceived missed opportunities, how Mitski stumbles on a good idea only to abandon it. The horns in Why Didn’t You Stop Me" are triumphant and ebullient but they just seem to tire her out. So the brutal curtailing of wonderful song-writing choices is oh so deliberate; these communal joys are all ‘communal’, no ‘joy’.

And right back to loneliness -- the muse that’s never around. If this record proves anything, it’s that this alienation walks hand-in-hand with the notion that Mitski doesn’t belong because she doesn’t understand how humans work. The concept of romance is foreign but coveted (“…and I know no one will save me, I just need someone to kiss”)., and as she’s off dreaming up modern fairytales marred by anxiety and awkward fumbling, the cracks begin to show. Is it not ironic that trawling YouTube comments on Mitski videos will yield plenty of strangers claiming how much they relate to her when the crux of her anxiety lies in how she can’t relate to anyone else" She’s missing that piece of understanding that connects her to others, and that’s why some of the songs on this record are dressed up all pretty in a veil of irony. Me and My Husband’s jaunty indie pop pianos almost induce a grimace with how affected the rhythm feels. Remember My Name plays out like a St. Vincent song except it’s much easier to tell that the serrated guitar riffing and tom-heavy drumming is all a façade, a false showing of confidence from a fringe-dweller who’s trying desperately to fit in. When Two Slow Dancers sighs itself into existence, it feels like the only honest moment on the entire record. More specifically: it’s about being honest with herself, taking a step back to realise that whichever mask she’s wearing isn’t worth the compromise. She has these songs and that’s more than enough.

I read somewhere that all of Mitski’s songs are, in some manner, about music -- not unrequited love or apocalyptic coffee dates or aliens in human skin, but music. Although, to be a little bit presumptuous, I think there’s just an underlying sense of music being both a salve for Mitski’s worry, and a vessel with which she can be herself when she isn’t able to anywhere else. We only realise that she’s “deeply human” because these songs, despite their best efforts, serve to illustrate her humanity, breakdowns and all, with startling clarity.

I don’t have any personal anecdotes to sell you on Mitski, no defining spiritual live moments where everything fell into place and I was one with the universe. What I can do, however, is reaffirm her uniqueness. Across Be the Cowboy, she is utterly herself: charismatic, slightly left-of-centre, arresting, and -- as always -- the odd one out in a crowded room. She may resign herself to the role of wallflower, but at least there’s music playing. At least she’s not completely alone.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
August 17th 2018


24200 Comments


cute review duderoo, first few sentences were a bit confusing but I havent seen the video so that might help. never got into this girl, might need to change that

Toad
August 17th 2018


1991 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed, genius vid is hilariously bizarre. good stuff, need to check this

luci
August 17th 2018


10299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

she understands humans too well if anything, to the point where I feel a little condescended to by her songwriting

FadedSun
August 17th 2018


1889 Comments


I'm not sold on Mitski yet. I remember her debut song/video being awesome, but then I watched a Tinydesk concert of her and didn't enjoy it. There was a particular dirty, garage rock kind of song where she sang a lyric "I'm not gonna be who my daddy wants me to be" and I groaned. Sounded too cheesy and cliche. I'll check out her new work.

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
August 17th 2018


9127 Comments


would I dig? describe in magnitudes of digging instruments, 1 being a toy plastic shovel and 10 being a nuclear excavator..

Digging: Geto Boys - The Geto Boys

SandwichBubble
August 17th 2018


8397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Review confused me more than it probably should, will be listening to this eventually though

Digging: Marika Papagika - Marika Papagika Vol. 1: Recordings 1918-1929

Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2018


23920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

loving this so far



I'll have to check all her albums

Digging: Pistol Annies - Interstate Gospel

verdant
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2018


2314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

yass kween slay we stan a legend omg icon yas kween i love her she's so hot omg omg omg so relatable hashtag

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2018


18196 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ruh roh

Digging: Nina Simone - Wild is the Wind

Jasdevi087
August 18th 2018


5359 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

didn't really turn me into the cowboy tbh

FreddieDelaney31
August 18th 2018


4915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Right now I'm feeling like this is the weakest of her 'big 3' (this, puberty, makeout creek) but the 1-2 punch or Blue Light and Two Slow Dancers is breathtaking and a career peak

Digging: ITEM - Sad Light

Toad
August 18th 2018


1991 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wasn't a huge fan before but i'm extremely impressed / moved by this album

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2018


16425 Comments


I don’t love her music but it’s cool that mitski’s particular use of dissonance renders her songwriting unmistakable, like it doesn’t sound like anything else to me

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
August 18th 2018


2646 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

III know that I ended it, but whyyy won't you chase after me?

Digging: Lil Zubin - Heavy Down Pour

rabidfish
August 19th 2018


4340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

there's something very off-putting about the way she sings.

not in a cool way, tho. It takes away from songs.

I like most of the instrumentation on this, and the production is neat most of the time.

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Toad
August 19th 2018


1991 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"there's something very off-putting about the way she sings."

what? she has such a clean, powerful voice. strikes me as being super accessible while still having a lot of personality.

hal1ax
August 19th 2018


12049 Comments


i liek

rabidfish
August 19th 2018


4340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

you feel this is accesible? i feel the intonation is kinda dead-pan and the off-kilter rhythm she puts into almost every line she delivers is awkward. Not my kind of awkward.

Jasdevi087
August 19th 2018


5359 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I kinda disagree, i feel her intonation's fairly clear, wouldn't call it "powerful" but it certainly isn't weak and it's dynamic enough

rabidfish
August 19th 2018


4340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

never said weak?

just weird and kinda off kilter

tho it's 100% a matter of personal taste, i kinda dig the song-writing and instrumentation.



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