Written Before Listen
Mitski is someone who I’ve listened to and have been exposed to, but also someone I vaguely remember. I listened to “Be The Cowboy” a while ago and it kind of tracked away from me. Fast forward to now and Mitski dropped an album a couple of weeks ago, and since I’m now a music reviewer, it is my job to review this album and listen to it in depth so without further ado, let’s get into it.
One thing I'll give Mitski right off the bat is that she doesn’t stick to one genre. The opening track “Valentine, Texas” is a transcendental and dark art-pop song but for the remaining 10 tracks, there is nothing remotely close to that song stylistically, maybe except for “Everyone”, but except for these two tracks, Mitski dabbles in art-rock, new wave, ambient pop, and synthpop to create a cohesive listen.
I wouldn’t say Mitski brings it back to the 80s or anything, but she does bring the instruments from the 80s. A lot of these songs consist of analog synthesizers, vintage drum machines as well as groovy bass and jangly guitars. If you have Satellite Radio, I’m pretty sure if this came out in 1985, half of these tracks would be on the 1st Wave rotation. Is that a bad thing? Not really, but it does suffer from standing out over the songs that came out during that time.
I wouldn’t say the mixing is bad or anything, but the generic mixing and mastering just make the imperfections more noticeable. In the song “Everyone” sounds a team of producers were given a million dollars to make a CASIO keyboard demo sound professional. The song “Heat Lightning” does have some nice dynamics but the atmospheric synths and reverberated vocals just don’t work well with the Velvet Underground type drum setup. “There’s Nothing Left Here for You” is a very comatose song but it just borders on meditation and the song “Should’ve Been Me” is just disastrous. It sounds like a mixture of a waterpark-themed MarioKart race and an ABBA song. Luckily there are some points where the mixing stands out. The opener for example does a good job of mixing the melancholic instrumentation with the climactic nuances. The song “Love Me More” is a pure new wave cut with the chorused bass, thick synth bass, and pulsating drum machines. Overall, I would say that the production choices are hit or miss, but they wouldn’t be as recognizable if the engineers put a little more personality into the mix.
When I came into this review, I thought the appeal of Mitski was to the songwriting. If that’s the case….I don’t see what stands out in comparison to her contemporaries. Yeah I'll admit that she’s poetic, she’s original and surely progressive, but so is Weyes Blood, FKA Twigs, and St Vincent and I’ve heard much more attentive songwriting chops from all three musicians. I’m not going to deny that Mitski is a skilled songwriter, but she is not the best in the pool of songwriters that are doing similar things to her.
It’s not like I disliked this album, but I don’t see what’s so special about it. It’s a solid pop record with above-average songwriting and some cool genre bends here and there. Surely songs like “Valentine Texas” and “Love Me More” are great songs but the batting average isn’t as high as it should be. It’s not like she’s missing either. If each song is like an at-bat, half of the at-bats would have contact but not all of them would wind up having her on base. With that being said, except for some great synthpop cuts, there’s nothing much to write home about.
I don’t know if it’s just this album or not, but my curiosity about Mitski wasn’t solved. Her vocal delivery doesn’t stand out, and her songwriting is slightly above average but once again, there are only a couple of tracks that I purely enjoyed. Maybe there is something more complex to get about Mitski’s music or she’s just not relatable to me but for now, let’s just say that I think this album is ok.