Indie rock album calls for introspection through probing lyrics

Artist Mitiski Miyawaki (pictured above) plays guitar and sings for her performance at Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Massachusetts. With surface level lyrics with a deeper meaning, her music elicits a more experimental feel (courtesy of Creative Commons).

After a two-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki released her fifth studio album, Be the Cowboy, on Aug. 17 to a chorus of overwhelmingly positive reviews.

From makeshift beginnings, Mitski has grown into the indie rock genre. Be the Cowboy demonstrates that her musical prowess is only expanding as she further explores her art.

While Mitski’s latest album includes more tracks than all her past albums, it consists mainly of short songs. No song on Be the Cowboy runs over four minutes in length and almost every track remains under two-and-a-half minutes. 

Mitski has certainly mastered the craft of creating short songs that simultaneously enchant and transport the listener. In her brief songs, Mitski’s lyrics suddenly surround the listener and unload to spur some major self-reflection, then vanish as soon as her message has been relayed. 

While off-putting at first, these surprisingly short tunes truly showcase Mitski’s skill as an artist by being able to pack incredible emotion and impeccable sound into a small amount of content. “Geyser,” the opening track of the album, encapsulates what Mitski does best: taking total control of emotion and tone and having the ability to change the meaning of lyrics after they repeat.

Mitski’s lyricism proves that she is still a master at pouring depth into simple phrases and stream-of-conscious thoughts, as she demonstrated in “Pink in the Night.” There is something about Mitski’s craft that allows her to repeat the same phrase or word and have it mean something different each time.

Taking note of criticism that her lyrics were sometimes too specific to her own experiences, Mitski has returned to her happy medium of personal lyrics that are still relatable for most listeners. 

As Be the Cowboy moved away from the lo-fi musical style Mitski has utilized in recent albums, she returned to her roots by including more piano and isolated vocals. 

“A Horse Named Cold Air” is a refreshing throwback to Mitski’s debut and second album sound. The song weaves in a haunting voice and chords that simultaneously create feelings of both unease and comfort.

Mitski brings her album to a fitting close with the last two ethereal and atmospheric tracks “Blue Light” and “Two Slow Dancers.” 

“Blue Light” conjures up the image of a bright blue sky growing pale and leaves the listener sinking into a deep blue and relaxed trance. 

“Two Slow Dancers” starts up while the listener is left drifting in calmness, calling in instrumentals that evoke a serene marine state. The track pierces the listeners like a double-edged sword, depicting the internal and external struggles that come with growing up. 

On the surface level of the song, Mitzki illustrates how relationships become more complicated as individuals age and feel pressured to commit to each other. The deeper meaning, however, investigates how there is no such thing as wasted time.  

Mitski ends the album on a paradoxical note, leaving a sad but sweet aura for the listener to wallow in. She offers the listener a lot of emotion to process because the album encapsulates experiences and thoughts that everyone has had. 

The album presents a subtle, overarching comfort through her lyrics. Even Mitski herself cannot givMitski proposes that there is no one god sent to answer our problems. e the listener true answers; the answers lie within. All it takes is courage to act self-assured and “be the cowboy.”