Mitski soundtracks your next nervous breakdown with 'Be the Cowboy'

Indie | Tuesday 28th August 2018 | David

Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki may have dialled back on the blistering guitar fuzz of her brilliant 2016 angst-rock opus Puberty 2, but her latest album is no less fraught with frighteningly unstable emotions.

With a layer of dark irony ingrained in her melancholic style, Mitski has a proven knack for conveying the barely-contained desperation of someone who's only just holding it together. So despite the music of Be the Cowboy having a little more pop polish and a little less punk aggression than usual, her intimate lyrics and high-strung vocals consistently betray a suppressed anxiety that simmers just beneath this glossy surface.

“I’m a geyser/Feel it bubbling from below,” she wails on the album’s explosive opener, but while the raging climax of “Geyser” could hold its own against the loudest moments on Puberty 2, that scalding hot emotional energy she’s describing is rarely granted the same therapeutic release on the rest of the album.


Lord knows, Mitski (or at least the stifled character she’s playing) tries to find an outlet for her passionate despair. Often she seeks solace in a partner, but no lover seems sufficient to save her from herself. “You love me so hard and I still can’t sleep”, the singer laments on grungy rocker “The Pearl,” summing up the futility of these romantic trysts.

But when she isn’t investing her sense of self-worth in someone else, Mitski’s looking for meaning in fame, and again comes up short. “Just how many stars will I need to hang around me to finally call it heaven?” she wonders on “Remember My Name”, though some part of her already seems to know that all the celebrity contacts in the world couldn’t bring the comfort of one genuine connection with another human being.

At 14 tracks in a lean 33 minutes Be the Cowboy wastes little time sketching out its series of mini-dramas, because in this fast-paced and hyper-competitive era, making a long, drawn-out spectacle of your sadness is just plain inefficient. Delivering its anguish in pretty little packages, Mitski’s latest is less about wallowing in misery than carrying on despite your misery, putting a brave face on your personal crisis until it ruins you from the inside. But hey, at least your eventual breakdown will have one lovely soundtrack.

Cop Be The Cowboy here

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