Lo-fi singer-songwriter-rocker with an occasional anti-folk highlight, and plenty of grungy lowlights. Her voice developed somewhere between a less-upbeat Courtney Barnett, more angsty Emmy the Great circa 2009, and — dare I suggest — maybe if an early Alanis Morissette was indie and took a different course with her sound. Compared to her first two: Retired from Sad, New Career in Business (2013) and LUSH (2012), this is her most cohesive album, solidifying her style as an up-and-coming indie rocker.
Throughout the entire 30 minute listen, half of Mitski’s songs are borderline cacophonous in the most lovely way. Most tracks end in a crafted, chaotic stupor. All of her numbers are notable for one quality or another. From the opener, the half-apologetic-ballad / half-rock “Texas Reznikoff” strikes a personal chord if only because of the hypnotizing reference to the breeze of an Austin night. Her voice is a distressing balance of guilt and confidence; this song encapsulates the essence the album. The seemingly-unsynchronized “I Don’t Smoke” is another beautifully uneasy one, as Mitski wails about an ex-lover. Towards the end, Mitski mellows out and shows her folkish-rock, singer-songwriter cornerstone in “Carry Me Out“, which retains the same angsty pulse as the rest of the album, but also sounds simultaneously victorious and defeated. At the very end, we’re rewarded with a bleakly lo-fi lullaby, “Last Words of a Shooting Star”, that makes me wonder if this song necessitates a #triggerwarning.
Her catchiest tracks are the mellow-grungy “Francis Forever“, the epitome of the Angsty Mitski Song: “Townie“, and my personal favorite “First Love / Late Spring“. If for some reason your New Year’s Resolution only allows you to listen to one Mitski song, choose this third track; First Love / Late Spring is the *first* Mitski song I’ve ever heard, and the one I *love* the dearest. Her doleful and deadpan deliveries like “please hurry leave me / I can’t breathe / please don’t say you love me” overlay pleasingly with the addictive guitar riffs. I’ve had this on repeat ever since I heard it. Did I tell you, I’m a little obsessed?
Even the songs with less catch shine in the way a muddy, scratched-up gold ring from a broken-off engagement found in a small Brooklyn back alley shines. (Since Mitksi is based in BK.) At times somewhat uncomfortable, and some other times very uncomfortable, I found myself turning down the volume during “Drunk Walk Home“, (but only because I live in an apartment with very thin walls.) There are some drunk nights out on the town when you’re dancing until dawn and your feet don’t even hurt (because you’re drunk enough to not feel them), your black nylon skirt makes you feel like a goddess, all of your girlfriends you started the night with are still with you, and somehow you’re at the perfect level of intoxication and you haven’t taken your wallet out once. This is not the kind of night Mitski is referring to. This is the drunk and solo walk back home, wearing a too-tight dress, with blistered feet, during an icy winter’s night from a presumed ex-lover’s place, where nothing in the world matters except screaming your anger for the world to hear. The ending was almost scary. My neighbors are worried for me. (But they’re probably not.)
As an songwriter, her lyrics are consistently poignant: “I want a love that falls as fast / As a body from the balcony” in “Townie” somehow echoes of the first three lines of T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; “He only loves me when / theres a means he means to end” from “Jobless Monday” has a bite of its own.
Alas, it seems I have dug myself into a Mitski-induced wallow by having this album on repeat. Although, she does offer a bit of an atonement in the more upbeat “I Will” which might be the only encouraging track on the album.