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REVIEW: Mitski’s "Bury Me At Makeout Creek" by Nina Posner
February 13, 2015
It starts quietly, but immediately you know it’s the building kind of quiet: picture a singular spotlight on a stage, singer and guitar comfortable in the big space, gentle fingerpicking chords and soft crooning emanating gently from that warm beam of light. You are nodding along, smiling a little. “But I’ve been anywhere, and it’s not what I want/I wanna be still with you…” There is a lull, and a subsequent eruption. The stage explodes, the air is flooded with loud craggy guitars, the crooning is still sweet but now with a hard punch. “You keep your socks on in bed” has never before been sung with such force.
Mitski’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Double Double Whammy Records)is full of wonderful and natural contradictions, ranging from such genre classifications as bright noise pop, dark dream pop, and the all-encompassing “indie rock.” Her brand of the latter offers us songs with guitars, yes, but her always-poignant lyricism and soaring, ethereal vocals work perfectly in conjunction with one another; they are what the listener is both soothed by and scared of. The album does not follow a clear tonal trajectory. It skips around various moods and vibes, owing no one consistency, running the full spectrum of most every affecting chord or feeling.
That being said, this is definitely an album about love. Many of the songs talk of familiar lovers: the aforementioned ones who keep their socks on in bed or those who learned about affection from the movies, for instance. The one-two punch of the driving, 90s-sounding “Francis Forever” and the reassuring, hand-clap-heavy “I Don’t Smoke” express, so eloquently, the parts of love that are hard to talk about: how to reconcile self-image and a lover’s image of oneself, reassuring someone that you can bear their struggles too, missing someone you’re separated from so much you can taste it.
Bury Me At Makeout Creek is a particularly strong album, not only because it’s really, truly great all the way through, but also in that it subverts the typical meanings of strength and seeks to redefine the concept. Mitski imparts to us that you can be both vulnerable and formidable; in fact, admitting what you need takes immense courage. On “First Love/Late Spring,” a song reminiscent of bright winter days featuring organs and sparkly synth, she sings: “Wild women don’t get the blues, but I find that/lately I’ve been crying like a tall child.” The second half of the album gives us the battle cry of “Drunk Walk Home:” war drums and a rising wall of distorted guitars, kind of St. Vincent-esque in the beginning, eventually becoming a total crushing wave of sound and shrieking and resistance. “But though I may never be free/fuck you and your money!” Every song on this record is distinctly its own, but all of them are real and raw and true.
Mitski never shelters us from her admissions, but she does not explicitly tell us to pay attention either. Her chosen medium is confession as declaration, and the listener is happy just to come along for the ride. Sitting shotgun never felt so good.