Be the Cowboy

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Be the Cowboy
Be the Cowboy.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 17, 2018 (2018-08-17)
Studio
  • Retro City, Philadelphia
  • Gradwell House, Haddon Heights
  • Red Bull, Los Angeles
Length32:28
LabelDead Oceans
ProducerPatrick Hyland
Mitski chronology
Puberty 2
(2016)
Be the Cowboy
(2018)
Singles from Be the Cowboy
  1. "Geyser"
    Released: May 14, 2018
  2. "Nobody"
    Released: June 26, 2018
  3. "Two Slow Dancers"
    Released: August 9, 2018

Be the Cowboy is the fifth studio album by Japanese-American indie rock musician Mitski, released on August 17, 2018, through Dead Oceans.[1] Produced by longtime collaborator Patrick Hyland, the album widens Mitski's palette with a return to the piano featured on her first two records alongside synthesizers, horns and the guitar that became her signature instrument.[2][3][4] Upon its release, the album received widespread acclaim from music critics. It was preceded by the singles "Geyser", "Nobody" and "Two Slow Dancers".

Writing and recording[edit]

In a statement, Mitski said she experimented in narrative and fiction for the album, and said she was inspired by "the image of someone alone on a stage, singing solo with a single spotlight trained on them in an otherwise dark room."[5] She recorded the album with longtime producer Patrick Hyland, and stated that "for most of the tracks, we didn't layer the vocals with doubles or harmonies, to achieve that campy 'person singing alone on stage' atmosphere."[6] She also said the album is about her reconnecting with her feelings: "I had been on the road for a long time, which is so isolating, and had to run my own business at the same time. A lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski."[7]

Release and promotion[edit]

The album was made available for pre-order on May 14, 2018 without prior announcement. "Geyser" was released as the lead single from the album on the same day along with a music video directed by Zia Anger, who also directed the music video for "Your Best American Girl" from Puberty 2 (2016).[8] The song was previously performed in 2014 on WNYU Radio and Hampshire College.[9][10] On June 26, Mitski released "Nobody" as the second single alongside a music video directed by Christopher Good which was shot over five days in Kansas City.[11] The third and final single to precede the album, "Two Slow Dancers", was released on August 9.[12]

In support of the album, Mitski embarked on a tour including North American and European legs. The tour began on June 9 in Bozeman, Montana.[13]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic87/100[14]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[15]
The A.V. ClubA−[16]
Consequence of SoundA[17]
The Guardian5/5 stars[18]
Mojo4/5 stars[19]
NME4/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork8.8/10[21]
Q4/5 stars[22]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[23]
The Times4/5 stars[24]

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, Be the Cowboy received an average score of 87, based on 30 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[14] Critics praised Mitski's ability to deftly move from the personal lyrics on her previous album Puberty 2 to more conceptual themes. AllMusic writer Marcy Donelson stated that "rather than being a disappointment, Be the Cowboy's point of view provides a brilliant twist, one that channels all the unease, unpredictability, and intuitiveness of Mitski's previous work—even for those who don't take in the lyrics."[15] Laura Snapes similarly commended the album in a review for The Guardian; "Mitski's songwriting trademarks are strong enough to transcend the stylistic revamp – arrangements that are rich without being precious (Pink in the Night), plus her terrifically mordant worldview."[18]

Pitchfork's Quinn Moreland called the album Mitski's greatest to date, stating that "she's never sounded so large, even in the record's quietest moments."[21] Rolling Stone's Will Hermes wrote, "There may be nothing explicitly political in the songs on Be the Cowboy. But there's plenty implicit, from the DIY American mythology of the title, to the way the songs validate voices that are shaky, hurting, irrational, and damaged, while also being smart, wry, powerful, and deserving of love."[23] The A.V. Club critic Katie Rife said, "Although Be The Cowboy sees Mitski fully transformed from her lo-fi beginnings in terms of production, her post-Pixies guitar-rock tendencies still come through strong, albeit now more lush and kaleidoscopic than buzzing and raucous."[16] Sarah Murphy from Exclaim! applauded the album, saying "The album is all the more impressive because her words and music are meticulously calculated, expertly arranged and still filled with feeling."[25]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Billboard 50 Best Albums of 2018 11 [26]
Consequence of Sound The Top 50 Albums of 2018 1 [27]
Entertainment Weekly 20 Best Albums of 2018 4 [28]
Flavorwire The 25 Best Albums of 2018 12 [29]
Flood Magazine The Best Albums of 2018 1 [30]
Fopp 100 Best Albums of 2018 46 [31]
The Independent The 40 Best Albums of 2018 24 [32]
The Line of Best Fit The Best Albums of 2018 1 [33]
The New York Times The 28 Best Albums of 2018 2 [34]
Noisey The 100 Best Albums of 2018 34 [35]
NOW The 10 Best Albums of 2018 5 [36]
NPR The 50 Best Albums of 2018 2 [37]
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2018 6 [38]
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2018 1 [39]
Refinery29 The 10 Best Albums of 2018 8 [40]
The Skinny Top 50 Albums of 2018 3 [41]
Slant Magazine The 25 Best Albums of 2018 7 [42]
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2018 10 [43]
Time The 10 Best Albums of 2018 3 [44]
Uproxx The 50 Best Albums of 2018 39 [45]
Vulture The 15 Best Albums of 2018 1 [46]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Mitski.

No.TitleLength
1."Geyser"2:23
2."Why Didn't You Stop Me?"2:21
3."Old Friend"1:52
4."A Pearl"2:36
5."Lonesome Love"1:50
6."Remember My Name"2:15
7."Me and My Husband"2:17
8."Come into the Water"1:32
9."Nobody"3:13
10."Pink in the Night"2:16
11."A Horse Named Cold Air"2:03
12."Washing Machine Heart"2:08
13."Blue Light"1:43
14."Two Slow Dancers"3:59
Total length:32:28

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Be the Cowboy.[47]

  • Mitski – performance
  • Patrick Hyland – performance, saxophone solo (on "Remember My Name")
  • Philly Phatness – horns (except saxophone solo on "Remember My Name")
    • Thor Espanez
    • Ian Gray
    • Vince Tampio
  • Evan Marien – bass (on "Nobody")
  • Ted Jensen – mastering
  • Ryan Smith – lacquer cutting
  • Mary Banas – album design
  • Bao Ngo – photography
  • Carl Knight – lighting
  • Annika White – styling
  • Marika Aoki – makeup

Charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Peak
position
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[48] 187
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[49] 99
Irish Albums (IRMA)[50] 56
Scottish Albums (OCC)[51] 40
UK Albums (OCC)[52] 64
US Billboard 200[53] 52
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[54] 3
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[55] 6
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[56] 7

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Ref.
Various August 16, 2018 Dead Oceans
August 17, 2018 Digital download

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Cheal, David (August 17, 2018). "Mitski: Be the Cowboy — eruptions of melody and energy". Financial Times. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  3. ^ Pollard, Alexandra (August 23, 2018). "Indie-rock star Mitski: 'I'm waiting for everyone to decide to hate me'". The Guardian. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  4. ^ Jenkins, Craig (August 22, 2018). "Mitski's Be the Cowboy Is Devastatingly Good". Vulture. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  5. ^ Dresden, Hilton (May 14, 2018). "Mitski Releases New 'Geyser' Video, Announces New Album". Out. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Reed, Ryan (May 14, 2018). "Mitski Previews New LP 'Be the Cowboy' With 'Geyser' Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  7. ^ Rossignol, Derrick (May 14, 2018). "Mitski Announces An Intimate New Album With The Epic Single 'Geyser'". Uproxx. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Boilen, Bob (May 14, 2018). "Mitski Shares And Talks About New Song And Album". NPR. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
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  15. ^ a b Donelson, Marcy. "Be the Cowboy – Mitski". AllMusic. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
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  33. ^ "The Best Albums of 2018". The Line of Best Fit. December 3, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
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