If you haven’t yet heard of Mitski, you soon will. The American-Japanese singer songwriter is slowly taking the world by storm with her intricate compositions, marvellous vocals and poetic lyrics. ‘Be The Cowboy’ is her fifth studio release, and serves to prove that she is not a one trick pony.
Opener ‘Geyser’ is complex and remarkable, with a strange touch of Scotland seeping through. The delicate vocals meet with an array of progressive instruments to create and enchanting, almost haunting, track. It indicates a vulnerability that hasn’t appeared in previous Mitski releases, which appears again and again across the record. ‘A Pearl’ creates this vulnerability with a personal tone, focusing on clinging to a protective bitterness long after it has served its use: “I fell in love with a war, and nobody told me it ended”. From these two tracks alone, this album shares an intimate glimpse into the inner world of Mitski.
Fourteen songs make the record, but only three of them exceed two and a half minutes in length. The shorter songs are where insane creativity is found, because they allow for experimentation without overindulging the overall sound. ‘Why Didn’t You Stop Me’ is a clear example here, as the alien-synth keyboard and rock-heavy guitar chords somehow work well to add depth. A closing brass section takes the regretful undertones and turns them into a strange, almost unnerving, celebration.
Halfway track ‘Me and My Husband’ is spilling with backstory. Beginning with a heavy sigh, the song deals with a difficult marriage held strong by a determination that “in this lifetime we’re sticking together”. Jazzy overtones juxtapose with the desperation of the lyrics, therefore creating a bouncy yet raw track that prevails.
Lead single ‘Nobody’ is a rare occasion where a track reaches three minutes. The inspiration stemmed from Mitski’s solo travels for tours and dealing with constant alienation. The disco beat makes dancing irresistible, however the isolated closing vocals push you back into the start reality.
Closing song ‘Two Slow Dancers’ expresses the feelings of two reunited lovers reminiscing, fully aware that the spark that was once there disappeared long ago. They dread returning to their own lives: “we could stay the same, but we’re two slow dancers, last ones out”. The vulnerability in Mitski’s voice returns once more to make the closing song as poignant as the opening. It draws the curtain on an album that exceeds expectations and revels in intimacy.