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Mitski - Be The Cowboy (Album Review)

Thursday, 23 August 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Bao Ngo

In a recent interview, Spike Lee pushed back on a question about his new film, BlacKkKlansman, being a comedy. “It’s not a comedy,” he said. “[...] it’s not a new phenomenon to have humour in very serious subject matter.”

While Lee and Mitski operate in different spaces, both artists appear to share an approach to their creative practice. They do not see genre as a guiding principle: the idea comes first and it is the artist's job is to follow that idea to its conclusion. Additionally, the generic categorisation of their work is not really their problem. It’s a job for the marketers, perhaps.

That said, one word that can be used to describe ‘Be The Cowboy’ is ‘cinematic’. In this context, that means rich, varied textures and tones that demonstrate intricate, highly personal narratives.

Mitski has dispensed with much of the emo-derived distortion of previous releases for her fifth album, and instead has written songs that could be described as art-crooning (Me and My Husband), folk-grunge (A Pearl) and - incredibly effectively - disco (Nobody).

And yet ‘Be the Cowboy’ retains cohesion. One reason it's able to do that is its format - 14 tracks that mostly end around the two-and-a-half minute mark. Such discipline stops the songs from ever feeling indulgent, despite heightened musicality, introspection and conceptual boldness.

But another reason is Mitski’s hugely versatile vocal delivery, which manages to navigate subject matter that is honest, serious and dignified. One brilliant line to represent that comes on Pink in the Night: “I could stare at your back all day.” The tenderness and simplicity of the lyric is its strength, and the mournful yet erotic vocal elevates something that - in other hands - could be embarrassingly trite. It’s top drawer music-making from an artist in full maturity.

Mitski Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 19 2018 - MANCHESTER Manchester Gorilla
Thu September 20 2018 - GLASGOW Saint Luke's
Sat September 22 2018 - DUBLIN Tivoli Theatre
Mon September 24 2018 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue September 25 2018 - BRISTOL Trinity Arts Centre
Wed September 26 2018 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Click here to compare & buy Mitski Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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