Mitski: Be the Cowboy – singular songs delivered with wicked precision

Be the Cowboy
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Artist: Mitski
Genre: Alternative
Label: Dead Oceans

Who else is writing like Mitski Miyawaki? Her lyrics ripple with a wicked precision and emotional resonance that are furthered by the New Yorker’s earnest vocal style and uncluttered orchestration.

With 14 songs packed into just 33 minutes, fifth album Be the Cowboy is another sharp set of airtight jams led by unfussy guitar playing, sparse piano chords and the occasional dash of cheap synthesisers. Take the swelling keys of Geyser or pulsing synths of Why Didn't You Stop Me – Mitski and long-time producer Patrick Hyland display a strong sense of knowing the kind of sonic ripple their economic orchestrations need.

Mitski, though, distinguishes herself with her pen and performance. Sliding into the role of a repressed woman because, as she explains in the album’s notes, “women have so little power and showing emotion is seen as weakness,” her songwriting captures a deep sense of vulnerability.

Old Friend clocks in at less than two minutes, but Mitski's simple invitation to a pal to meet her for coffee captures the need for human bonds. Over gently caressed keys, pretty closer Two Slow Dancers finds her yearning for the simplicity of the school-organised dance as she examines a relationship likely crumbing from oh-so-grown-up complexities.


These are weighty topics but, in Mitski’s hands, they’re captured with an elegance that’s hard to turn away from.