ALBUM REVIEW: “BE THE COWBOY” BY MITSKI

Two years ago, I was obsessively listening to Puberty 2 on my record player, on my phone, in the car, as I ran, by myself, or in company. I was swirling in the fuzzy, emotional depths that Mitski created and had encapsulated me during a shifting time in my life.

On August 17th, she released her fifth album, Be the Cowboy, on the label Dead Oceans. Be The Cowboy is an incredibly diverse, ambitious album that goes beyond an introspective account of personal experience and offers a world of performance and glam, a world created as a piece of art in itself.

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We are welcomed on the opening track, ‘Geyser’, by an organ and Mitski’s crescendoing voice singing my favorite lyrics of the entire album, “You’re my number one / You’re the one I want /  I turned down every hand that has beckoned me to come”. The burst into an orchestral sequence confirms Mitski is still tapping the audience’s emotions in her latest endeavor, but with each song we’re transported to a carefully crafted narrative.

It’s the dance beats of ‘Why Didn’t You Stop Me’, the country-esque vocals of ‘Lonesome Love’, the disco vibe of ‘Nobody’, and the pop synth melody of ‘Me and My Husband’ that proves Mitski is a dynamic, diverse songwriter. She’s a skilled composer with the ability to string these different genres into an incredibly tender, cohesive album. An album I’ll be spinning in my room, at a party, or on the go continuing to discover the moments of tension and allure. An album that only Mitski herself could create.


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Alycia Socia

ALBUM REVIEW: “THE BLUEST STAR” BY FREE CAKE FOR EVERY CREATURE

On August 3rd, free cake for every creature (PA) put out a new full length soft-pop album called the bluest star. What started as a solo project for song-writer Katie Bennett, free cake has expanded to include long-term band members, Francis Lyons and Heeyoon Won, as well as a rotating cast of musicians and friends.

the bluest star was recorded over the latter half of 2017 in the apartment that Katie and Francis share; maintaining free cakes’s lo-fi bedroom-pop roots while also showing growth through collaboration and experimentation.

Composed with a heart wide-open, each song offers insight into Katie’s lived experiences and her feelings about them. She whispers about the simple and mundane, “eating clementines on the subway / put the peels on my blue jeans” (be home soon) and shares her existential musings, “walked for hours aimlessly / washed in the nothing, happily / the world went on without me / and I let it, happily” (sunday afternoon).

Every track has something special to offer: the drum machine in shake it out, the pedal steel guitar that keeps coming back, the whisper of Katie’s voice in goodbye, unsilentlylisten closely to the bluest star; you won’t want to miss anything.

Favourite track: sideline skyline

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Photo by Francis Lyons

STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A Basset

ALBUM REVIEW: “MAGIC GONE” BY PETAL

In 2015, I saw Kiley Lotz (the founding and only permanent member of Petal) perform in a high school hallway on a makeshift stage during an annual male-centered pop punk festival in mid-Michigan. The way she stood on stage looked like the way I stand when i’m uncomfortable; Lotz and myself were two of a dozen of womxn amongst hundreds of men. Unassumingly, she strummed her guitar and sang ‘I’m Sorry’; a song we’re lucky to see again on Magic Gone. Her voice is clear and pure; if we lived in a cartoon, tiny birds would float out of her mouth. I saw her later in 2016 when she opened for Pity Sex. Her confidence on stage had grown tenfold; an incredibly warm and friendly presence that made you feel like you knew her all along. Following this time, Lotz’ grappled with mental illness, guilt, shame, and her sexual and gender identity which she shared with Out Magazine earlier this month.

Magic Gone (06/15), released on Run For Cover Records, is Petal’s (PA) second full length album.

Side A, titled ‘Tightrope Walker’ consists of songs written prior to treatment. We’re able to bear witness to her self-reflection, self-doubt, and her tendency to put others’ expectations first. While ‘Better Than You’ is the song bopping on your summer playlist that reflects a fuzzy-guitar driven 90’s vibe, ‘I’m Sorry’, first featured on Petal’s 2013 EP Scout, finds its place in this arc of self-discovery. We see patterns of heteronormativity being examined: “A binary system/We pace around another/One is bound to shine/More bright”. We’re offered an invitation in ‘Comfort’ to a boiling point in her relationship with the lyrics, “And you could barely drive when I said/I don’t fucking care anymore/I don’t see the point of lying for/What I am only tearing apart”. The visual of sitting in the passenger seat next to your partner is relatable, but more importantly, this scene casts a mirror of ourselves and the destruction that occurs when we do not honor our own truth.

Side B, called ‘Miracle Clinger’, are songs she wrote while in treatment. We’re taken along for a journey that many of us have lived through in our own unique circumstances; a reminder that we’re not alone. Our departure begins with ‘Stardust‘, which captures the nostalgia of who we once loved as we move forward. “I became so skilled at the act of getting through every day that I trusted that ability”, Lotz speaks on her ability to be functional amongst her mental health hardships; a badge I have worn many times in my life only to discover the weight is heavier than I. She spent the last year intentionally building a practice to acknowledge, address, and treat her mental illness. Lotz is an artist that represents myself and many of my close loved ones in presence, in struggle, and in discovery. Magic Gone is proof that we can peel back our vulnerability to honor the depths within us and create community when we share our struggles.

Lotz’ offers the raw intimacy of her voice which feels as if she is a close friend singing to us on a summer porch. Kiley Lotz, a talented musician, has carried Petal through their second full length record. Petal is currently co-headlining with another Run For Cover Records favorite, Camp Cope. We’re rooting for Kiley as a friend, we’re showing up for Petal as fans, and we’re experiencing the aura of Lotz finding her way just like so many of us.

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Kiley Lotz of Petal
Press photo from Shore Fire Media

STAFF CONTRIBUTION: ALYCIA SOCIA

SHOW: SNAIL MAIL AT THE BELT

On June 15th, Snail Mail (Baltimore, MD) with supporting guests, Bonny Doon (Detroit, MI), played a free show at The BELT in Detroit, MI.

The BELT is a redefined, yet unassuming, alleyway in downtown Detroit. As part of the continous effort of its redevelopment, the Library Street Collective gives space to artists that create work to engage the public.

As you walk underneath the colourful plexiglass sculptures marking the entrance, you are pleasantly over-stimulated by the half-kilometre of murals and installations illuminated by string lights criss-crossing above. Walking through the alley, I could feel that the energy was high; there is something unique about a Detroit crowd where their appreciation for music is unwavering and remains unpretentious.

After releasing the album “Lush” on June 8th, Lindsey Jordan (Snail Mail) has been getting a lot of attention. The unapologetically vulnerable song-writing and moody, yet jangly, guitar from “Lush” carries over into her live performance. With relatable lyrics and melodies that move you, Jordan has the ability to connect with people through her music. As she seemlessly transitioned from one song to the next, the crowd swayed synchroniously.

This show was special for a lot people, myself included. Bonny Doon received unconditional home-town support, Lindsey celebrated her 19th birthday, and that was the last time I would cross the border into Detroit for a show before moving to Canada’s east coast.

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Lindsay Jordan playing with Bonny Doon (Detroit, MI) at The Belt

STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A. Basset