Mitski continues to show the shape of indie rock to come on Be the Cowboy | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Mitski continues to show the shape of indie rock to come on Be the Cowboy 

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Bao Ngo

At 27, indie rocker Mitski Miyawaki is green enough still to be an unknown—at least to the young pop fans who caught her opening performances during Lorde’s recent arena tour—but established enough for her to fear being pigeonholed. On her breakthrough 2016 album, Puberty 2, Mitski explored a color gradient of sadness through white-knuckle rock; the songs on the record are lifelike and multidimensional, but the incredible response it received left her concerned she’d become typecast. “I wanted to make sure that I was always seen as a sort of artist in a holistic sense,” she recently told British culture magazine the Outline. “I didn’t want to be known as the person to turn to if you want a distorted guitar. I wanted to be bigger than that. I wanted to be more complex and human than that.” To that end, Mitski broadens her musical palette with her fifth album, August’s Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans): synths squiggle through “Why Didn’t You Stop Me,” horns beckon the supersize chorus on “Remember My Name,” and a frictionless postdisco guitar line sets the mood for “Nobody.” She remains a penetrating and empathetic lyricist, which is evident when she sings about a woman who sacrificed her individuality to a lifetime of marriage on “Me and My Husband.” Through her exacting language and ironclad voice, Mitski brings care and warmth to a complex, bittersweet story.   v

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