Mitski – Be the Cowboy

Album Review by Cheri Amour | 14 Aug 2018
Album title: Be the Cowboys
Artist: Mitski
Label: Dead Oceans
Release date: 17 Aug

With that title, it wouldn’t be wild to assume Mitski Miyawaki’s latest release might be something of a cowboy's lament. Her loyal indie cult has certainly come to expect a sad story. “Every time someone on social media is like, ‘I can’t wait to cry to your new album,’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you’ll cry. I’m sorry,’” she joked in an interview with Pitchfork. But the artist’s fifth record release is more than a tear-jerker. It’s a story of self-discovery, resilience and shifting identity.

If Bury Me at Makeout Creek marked Mitski’s “breakthrough” and seismic shift from piano to punk rage on guitar, and Puberty 2 grappled with finding happiness in the reality of adulthood, Be the Cowboy is a new frontier. Recent single Nobody bears an imprint of collaborations with pop experimentalists Xiu Xiu. Mitski considers real human intimacy in a bustling city full of bodies, 'Oh god, I’m so lonely so I open to hear sounds of people.' Similarly existential, Remember My Name finds the singer yearning for something bigger, against an Annie Clark sculpted skronking guitar backdrop, as she ponders: 'Just how many stars will I need to hang around me to finally call it heaven?'

Elsewhere, fantastical fairground trills in Me and My Husband add a buoyancy to otherwise macabre realism: 'At least in this lifetime / We’re sticking together.' While Old Friend’s intimacy conjures red gingham tablecloths and leather booths of her exchange at Blue Diner with an unrequited love.

Decidedly more disco for Mitski, Be the Cowboy is a showdown of electrowave and her signature fretwork that brings a pop pep to heartbreak and humanity’s greatest gluttonies. With that formidable force of a voice, she forces us all to be the cowboy and lament for a while. Just no tears, please.

Listen: Nobody, A Horse Without a Name, Me and My Husband