Be the Cowboy

Be the Cowboy

In an interview with the BBC in 2018, Iggy Pop called Mitski “probably the most advanced American songwriter that I know”—a rave that briefly tempted the Japan-born, New York-based singer to call it a career. “I thought maybe it would be best to quit music now that I’d gotten to the whole point of it, which is to be known by your personal saints,” Mitski tells Apple Music. “Very unfortunately, I can’t seem to quit music.” But even with a widening chorus of cosigns—and a recent stint opening for Lorde in stadiums and arenas—Mitski revels in solitude on her fifth album. The 14 tracks feature precise thoughts on loneliness and self-discovery, encased in ambient textures (“Blue Light,” “Come into the Water,” “A Horse Named Cold Air”) and tempos that range from dance music (“Nobody”) to pensive balladry (“Two Slow Dancers”). On the latter—one of her favorites on the album—she put old anxieties to rest. “For once, I didn’t let my deep-seated fear of losing someone’s attention interfere with doing what I felt was best for a song,” Mitski explains, “which was to make it slow, long, and minimal.” “Washing Machine Heart” uses the metaphor of laundering a partner’s soiled kicks for sonic and lyrical inspiration. “I imagined that’s the sound of someone’s heart going wild,” she explains, “and I thought about what would create that painful sort of exhilaration.” From the dejected sigh that opens “Me and My Husband,” an unflinching peek into relationship doldrums and suburban ennui, to the alone-on-Christmas levels of “Nobody” that Morrissey himself would eat a bacon sandwich to reach, Mitski knows her album is a mood: “I guess I'm just incredibly tapped into that specific human condition.”

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