2018, Music

Be the Cowboy (2018) by Mitski

This is an excellent singer-songwriter album that expertly weaves disparate styles of music into a coherent whole, sometimes within the same song. It sounds unmistakably like the artist, even though I’ve barely heard her before.

I was only vaguely aware of Mitski before listening to this record and immediately upon listening to it I am seized by a sense of who this woman is. I feel like it’s relatively rare for a singer-songwriter to just be able to present their essence consistently in a set of songs – often there are experiments or detours that don’t fit, or imitations or what have you. But this record sounds like it was created by a singular voice – the sense of authorship is strong.

Mitski weaves together different styles and aesthetics but it never feels forced, and it never feels like a track or particular instrument doesn’t belong. Despite the differing arrangements, the album feels like a coherent whole.

Her songs don’t stick around very long. Though I am absolutely someone who likes long songs and suites and the like, I think this a big virtue of this record. The brevity of these songs, which are often full of slightly off-beat ideas, means that you’re constantly wanting more rather than getting exhausted. The sheer number of albums that are longer than a conventional LP ever since the CD was invented is kind of immense, and so many artists have taken advantage of formats that allowed for a longer running time to brain-dump. There’s an art to making a half-hour album that is actually long enough to feel like an album. This is one of those records and I think a lot of it has to do with the length of the songs.

For me, just about everything about this works. I read someone dragging the mix and I can’t say I fully understand but I will say, like so many singer-songwriter albums where the voice is a key part of the song, her voice is perhaps a little bit too far forward compared to the other instruments. This is a minor quibble.



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