Mitski – Be The Cowboy

‘Be The Cowboy’ isn’t a long listen, but Christ, you’ll feel every second.
Label: Dead Oceans
Released: 17th August 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

No one does vulnerability like Mitski. Whether it’s an overblown indie rock banger, a jazzy number with an elaborate horn arrangement or an intimate piano ballad, every single track on ‘Be The Cowboy’ is tremendously compelling.

Lead single and opener ‘Geyser’ is a song that literally embodies its title, bubbling under the surface until the chorus explodes. The momentum she displays on it is unstoppable, rolling through the album like an avalanche triggered by the sound of a heart breaking.

Mitski’s records have always been like opening up her diary, but there’s something particularly striking about the lyrics this time around. “Walk up in my high heels, all high and mighty, then you say hello and I lose” on ‘Lonesome Love’ is heart-on-your-sleeve like no other. The same goes for the simplicity of “somebody kiss me, I’m going crazy” on ‘Blue Light’. ‘A Pearl’ has the spunk of a Nirvana song with the sincerity of a 3 am phone call to an old flame.

‘Be The Cowboy’ is packed with fantastic contradictions like those. ‘Nobody’ channels The Cardigans’ ‘Lovefool’, but couldn’t be further from it lyrically. The relatively disturbing imagery conjured up on ‘Washing Machine Heart’ (“toss your dirty shoes in my washing machine heart, baby, bang it up inside”) is offset by Mitski’s sugary sweet delivery and clapping song beat.

Her fifth full-length is decidedly less lo-fi than her previous records, too. While the lyrics remain painfully candid, the vocals are far less muffled, and the instrumentation clearer, creating an overall more confident, braver, feel. It’s as if she’s made peace with her yearning – she can shout louder now.

Clocking in at 32 and a half minutes, ‘Be The Cowboy’ isn’t a long listen, but Christ, you’ll feel every second. As always, Mitski may be an indie rock artist, but her songwriting and ability to open up her chest, showing off her never-healing heart, position her as the absolute antithesis of the genre.

Abigail Firth

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