DECEMBER: Be The Cowboy by MITSKI

So just as we chose this for December, then comes along old Pitchfork to make this their #1 album of the whole year:

https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/the-50-best-albums-of-2018/?page=5

Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t think this is the album of the year. I think it is VERY good. But I’m not sure I would go as far as Pitchfork. I always get the impression Pitchfork is so painfully curated as to hit its demographic, it’s hard to take their lists seriously. Mitski certainly hits all the right 2018 buttons – strong female voice, big leap forward musically with new album, touching on angst and loneliness and anger. You can see why they chose it.

I’ve been aware of Mitski for a while, and thought I’ve liked what I’ve heard, I’ve maybe not loved it. She’s certainly an interesting voice, but I’ve found her songs a little bit too indie and angular and maybe I’m searching for a touch more from them. But that is based on not spending a lot of time with them, so that could be hugely unfair.

And then I heard NOBODY. Oh boy. What a song. WHAT a song. It might be a late entry into my song of the year. Hell, it might even just knock GIRLFRIEND off the top spot. Aching, painful, searing loneliness that starts off plaintive and then turns into a bloody grandstanding DISCO song, complete with two key changes that take my breath away every time I hear them.

So maybe now I get Mitski.

NOBODY is probably an outlier on the album – it’s not choc-a-block with similar tracks – but there is something really interesting going on here. The album starts off with a song that I could take or leave, GEYSER, that suggests something generically indie, but it quickly picks up after that. WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME? is a stomping slab of St Vincent-style wonky pop. And off the album goes in all kinds of fabulous directions. Other highlights: include ME AND MY HUSBAND – a piano led belter of a pop song, PINK IN THE NIGHT – huge, emotional indie torch tune, LONESOME LOVE, which goes proper alt-country. And finally, closer TWO SLOW DANCERS is a lovely, electronic ballad that’s a fitting closer.

Another wonderful plus: song length! I love that so many of these songs don’t outstay their welcome. Thanks you Mitski for writing 2 minute songs that are exactly the right length. Please please God can some bloated rock dudes take note. You don’t need 2 guitar solos, a middle eight and a lengthy outro every time, got it?

However, those brief song lengths can occasionally be a hindrance – there are some songs that feel half-formed or don’t quite earn their place on what is a very good album. And that’s, for me, why it isn’t quite album of the year material.

Still, a strong end to a pretty strong year, I thought. Over to you…

———-

FINALLY: As a side discussion, shall we have an albums of the year chat, Brothers? Oh yes, I think we should!

3 comments

  1. misterstory

    Thank you brother David – I come to this album with some experience as I’ve had it for good chunk of the year and loved it for all of that time. I considered it previously for AOTM but decided against it. I am not 100% sure why I decided on other options, I think this may have been to do with U.S. Girls pick previously. While the two albums are very different I think that they tick a lot of the same boxes. I think U.S. Girls feels more earnest and Mitski a little more ‘fun’ despite much of the subject matter.

    I agree with David that Geyser would not be missed. I was disappointed when I first listened to the album as this is a weak start which I don’t get. However, now,even when on repeat, this offends me less each time I listen. And I have listened to this a lot. As David points out, no song outstays it’s welcome and comes in between 2-4 mins. so the whole album is a pretty quick and rewarding listen and stands up to repeat runs really well.

    Excluding the bad start, the tracks are sequenced nicely. I find it rewarding that ‘Nobody’ comes on the ‘2nd side’ of the album as the stand out tracks are so often placed upfront these days and albums tend to drift off in the middle or end. There are ‘slower’ less ‘obvious’ tracks that feature towards the end, i could understand people suggesting these are filler but for me they serve as an interlude and a pleasant departure / breather. Two Slow Dancers is one of my favourite tracks and is a beautiful end to the album.

    I love her voice.

    I think this is really strong lyrically.

    Is it a little middle-aged? I think it probably is but I’m choosing to embrace this.

    Can I make a quick call out for ‘Me and My Husband’? How often do you hear the word ‘husband’ in lyrics? Almost never. It’s really rare. I can barely think of any other examples and I listen to loads of female vocalists. I love the sentiment of this track and it fills full of smiles each time I hear it.

    Speaking of marriage, Stacey could never get into this album. She found it ‘wrecks her head’. That’s probably reduced the air time that it has received in Casa Story but you can’t win them all. I think she was in a bad mood when I first played it to her and she had to stick to her first feelings on the album. Perhaps I’ll re-introduce this some time and claim that it’s new.

    As for Pitchfork. I am surprised by the selection as Album of the Year. Usually they go with which ever album scored highest in their review. I think this scored around 8.6 with plenty of albums scoring higher but then overlooked in the final. Pitchfork is what it is. As you say, I don’t think this is album of the year … but I dont know what is?

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Merci frere David. I’ve really struggled to listen to new music much beyond this blog of late. Fatherhood is all-consuming outside work, which is also all-consuming, so fitting this around that and a new job and relocation plans and I’m just never feeling I’ve got enough time to do ANYTHING.

    So it took me a while to even get started with this, and so this is a few listens in, rather than fully-formed.

    I do think it’s promising, and I’d agree that Nobody is a FANTASTIC record. I’m not sure it betters Girlfriend, but it’s really really good. There’s a very 60s vibe about it, in a very good way. It’s definitely the highlight of an interesting, if not consistent album.

    Her voice is really great, and very classic without trying to be deliberately different. I can see the parallels with US Girls, especially on Pink In The Night and Come Into The Water (not to mention a bit of Lana Del Ray in there). In fact, if anything feels like a ‘theme’ it’s a vintage feel that runs through the whole album. But…. there’s different styles and moments in there. Me and My Husband is brilliant, and feels pretty 90s – again, in a good way – and Lonesome Love feels nicely country-tinged, Old Friend is very modern, as is Why Didn’t You Stop Me (albeit there’s a 90s, riff that somehow makes me think of Blur) so it’s an interesting trip, if one that doesn’t quite gel on first impressions.

    But it’s great to hear good songwriting, and there’s real talent there. And also a big thumbs up for short songs that have no filler.

    A nice end to the year, Brothers.

    • nolankane706

      I tend to share the thoughts of you all on this brothers.

      I had to give this album some time as I couldn’t get around the bad start… it really doesn’t grip you. Very much on a consistent point of brother Joseph; sometimes less is more and perhaps some songs should have been left out.

      Ignoring the lacklustre start this album then turns into all thriller and no filler. It’s solid.

      Throwing this out there…. do any of you think it’s like listening to a female version of John Grant?

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