Mitski released her fifth album “Be The Cowboy” to critical acclaim in mid-August, just two years after the release of “Puberty 2.” Despite several standout tracks, the album ultimately fails to live up to its potential. The seemingly random song order makes the project feel like a collection of singles instead of a coherent whole.
The album opens with the single, “Geyser.” The song is the first glimpse of a departure from the instrumentation of “Puberty 2.” Rather than the raw guitar that spanned most of “Puberty 2,” this record features synthesizers and a return to the classical piano that Mitski used in her first two albums, while also featuring a fair amount of horns and percussion.
“Be The Cowboy” also differs from Mitski’s previous work in that it does not have layered vocals. This is intentional, as part of Mitski’s inspiration for this album was the idea of someone singing alone on a stage.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to decipher Mitski’s narrative. Although the vocals are toned back, most of the songs feature far too many instruments to feel like Mitski could be playing all of them and singing by herself on stage. On the bright side, the album does not lose much without this narrative.
One of the standout tracks on the album is the single “Nobody.” Mitski pairs lyrics about being lonely and estranged with upbeat disco music. This juxtaposition makes “Nobody” extremely relatable and catchy.
Another standout is “A Horse Named Cold Air.” In the song, Mitski sings about someone looking back on their life to discover that they have “circled the same old sin.” The emotion behind these lyrics combined with relatively simple piano accompaniment creates a heavy-feeling, somber song.
“Washing Machine Heart,” a more upbeat piece, follows “A Horse Named Cold Air” and highlights some of the issues with the album. The change from sad to upbeat song feels abrupt and unsatisfying because there is no transition between the two.
Mitski’s lack of transitions mars much of the album. Despite multiple songs with similar instrumentation, such songs are not grouped in a way that showcases their commonality. The overall lyrical content of the album has a similar problem. In general, the song lyrics on “Be The Cowboy” do not come together in any cohesive way. The ordering of songs almost highlights this lack of cohesion. Individually, all of the songs on the album are decent, but not all of them fit with the track that precedes or follows them.
Overall, “Be The Cowboy” is a solid album, but it could benefit from ordering the songs to tie them together rather than ordering them in a way that feels random.
Album: Be The Cowboy
Release: Aug. 17
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars