Mitski Miyawaki (mononymously known as Mitski) is a powerhouse. The Japanese-American artist is only 27 years old, and her new album; Be The Cowboy is her fifth album in six years. Her 2016 album Puberty 2 was released to universal critical acclaim, single “Your Best American Girl” landed on multiple “best songs of 2016” lists, and starting in March this year, she joined Lorde as an opener for the New Zealand artist’s Melodrama World Tour. To say that Mitski has been having a hard working, busy, few years is an understatement. Within Be The Cowboy, there’s a new central focus for Mitski: the loneliness that accompanies a young woman as she relentlessly tours to continue being a musician for a living. Of course, her words are as sharp and powerful as ever. There’s no one who has so effectively mastered the art of explosive, endlessly fascinating songwriting. She switches between personifying fictional characters, while a number of tracks follow her relationship with music (“Geyser” and “Remember My Name” spring to mind) rather than other people, or herself. This is undoubtedly Mitski’s most ambitious album yet, and also the culmination of all her past work. The album has an unbelievable amount of musical ideas wrapped up inside it, and in any other artist’s hands, it might not work. Be The Cowboy is only 33 minutes long – only three songs are longer than two and a half minutes, but it all flows beautifully. All the ideas are anchored by ethereal vocals and haunting lyrical gems. Just looking at the singles, it’s clear that Mitski is confident in making yet another sonic departure. Take second single “Nobody”; an infectious disco-pop banger that’s nothing like anything else in her discography. Album opener “Geyser” is bombastic and combines the piano and organ found in her first two records, Lush and Retired From Sad, New Career In Business and joining them is the crashing, distorted guitars that defined her breakout album, Bury Me At Make Out Creek. Final single “Two Slow Dancers” is a gorgeous, nostalgic piano ballad. There’s no one who tackles nostalgia and loneliness like Mitski.
It’s hard to put into words the effect of Mitski’s music. Her voice is as clear and sharp as a knife, and the instruments wrap around you with the warmth of a blanket on a cold day. Even though the name of her new album, Puberty 2, sounds like a cheesy American teen movie a la American Pie, Mitski reminds us that life is messy, the question of where you belong is complex, and we can’t always have the things we want. I had the pleasure of talking with Mitski during the lead up to this new album about everything from the music to the in-between.