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Josh T. Landow

CD of The Week

Week of 9/03/18

    Mitski - Be The Cowboy (Dead Oceans)

    The ambition of Mitski Miyawaki's latest album is laid bare right away with the title. To Be the Cowboy is, to many, to embody grand ideals of exploration and exceptionalism. The cowboy of popular culture is heroic yet unattached. They embed and endear themselves in every town they ride into, yet belong to none of them. While Mitski may embody such ideals through her biography as a tirelessly touring musician who grew up all over the globe, she does so even more through her discography. With each new album, her artistic wanderlust guides her farther and farther away from her modest beginnings, and this one takes her and her listeners to more numerous and exciting destinations than ever before.

    Naturally, the album begins with where the preceding Puberty 2 left off. Leadoff track and single "Geyser" buzzes and fuzzes to life with the promise to "be the one you need" over distortion as dense and destructive as anything Trent Reznor delivered during his Downward Spiral days. Subsequent songs waste no time venturing off the previously established grid, with the most exhilarating journeys winding up on the dance floor. Knockout "Nobody" embraces Donna Summer disco while examining both the fear and fortitude of being alone, while "Why Didn't You Stop Me?" calls the bluff that an ex-lover won't while capturing the rough around the edges synth-pop of latter-day Robyn. Other highlights hew a little closer to Mitski's previous wheelhouses but sound like evolution nonetheless. "Lonesome Love" borrows Jenny Lewis's rabbit fur coat and wears it fetchingly, while "Me and My Husband" saunters into the saloon to the tune of pianos cribbed from Spoon.

    The breadth of Mitski's musical exploration is matched only the depth of her emotional exhumation. Like Puberty 2 and her underrated breakthrough album Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Cowboy reveals an uncanny ability to render the reconciliation of delusions of adulthood and connection against reality. She's at her most raw and vulnerable on "Remember My Name." "I gave too much of my heart tonight," she laments as the song begins before confessing "I need someone to remember me." As each successive album grows more adventurous and awe-inspiring, she won't have to worry about feeling that need for much longer.

    Mitski plays a sold-out show October 19th at Union Transfer, but she'll be back in Philly almost exactly a month later, returning to Union Transfer on November 18th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio this week to receive a copy of Be The Cowboy. Click here for details.

    Review by Rob Huff

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