Published Aug 15, 2018Mitski doesn't want Be the Cowboy to sound like Puberty 2. She made a concerted effort to ditch the distorted guitars that rang through her 2016 breakout album.
Instead, we hear her, loud and clear and at the front of the mix from the opening croons to the euphoric crescendo of "Geyser" — as its name suggests, a song about a woman erupting with passion too long caged.
From there, Mitski takes delightfully unexpected turns at many points during the record, from the stuttering synths of "Why Didn't You Stop Me" and campy piano-pop of "Me and My Husband" to the disco loops of "Nobody" and pulsating "Washing Machine Heart."
Closing track, "Two Slow Dancers," plays like an old movie, cinematic both in its sound and its story of a former couple sharing a sweet moment decades on at a class reunion.
Throughout Be the Cowboy, Mitski's voice remains as hauntingly evocative as ever, her songs still melancholic and tinged with themes of loneliness and nostalgia. But this time, she's made sure we know the experiences of the characters in her songs are narrative works — not unedited diary entries, as they've been unfairly described in the past.
The album is all the more impressive because her words and music are meticulously calculated, expertly arranged and still filled with feeling. (Dead Oceans)