Bury Me at Mitski's Rodeo



by Katie Burke

In a dark bar, clutching a phone to my ear, is where I decide that Mitski has a catalog of my sins. Someone has pulled up Lonesome Love and it’s my first time hearing it. When she sings, Nobody butters me up like you do and nobody fucks me like me, I feel an immediate urge to call a lyft. To go home to my apartment, light a candle for myself and put my ass to bed.

The first thing I do when I listen to a new Mitski album is think about myself.

Listen. I do the thing we all do. I beg to relate to whatever it is that I find beautiful or interesting. I assign a relationship or an experience to each song, and then I make it mine. Mitski makes this, not necessarily easy, but wonderfully possible. Like honesty. Like shifting weight.

There is more of a pop aspect to this album than there ever has been in Mitski’s music. There are bops like, “Why Didn’t You Stop Me” interspersed between the expected guitar-heavy ballads like, “Geyser” or “Pink in The Night”. Songs to scream-cry to.

I want to talk about the bops. Get in your car, or get on the train, or the bus while you listen to “Why Didn’t You Stop Me”. Look out the window and feel how everything can move as quickly as your heart does. How buildings can turn to blur as quickly as you begin to feel the twinge of shame from the lyrics I know I ended it, but why didn’t you chase after me? You know me better than I do. So why didn’t you stop me?

Put your hands on your head. What you’re feeling is whiplash.

There are multiple songs that function like breaks between paragraphs. A breather. Songs under two minutes that allow your heart to relax, to mend from all her honesty. Like the line in “A Horse Named Cold Air”,

I thought I had traveled a long way
but I had circled
the same old sin

I need a week in bed.

The first time I heard Mitski was in 2014 when Bury Me at Makeout Creek was released. I wrote a review of it. I had never felt compelled to review anything before. I wrote that it made me feel young, like a teenager. I wrote that I felt thankful that I was no longer in my teens, but my twenties. How did I imagine this being easier? I don’t want to assign an age to this album. But there is definitely a clarity to the sadness. Imagine a light getting turned on inside a room which darkness’ you have already adjusted to. Everyone is always getting older.

We should be thankful that Mitski has let her art become this kind of time capsule. A museum of what she was feeling at the time, with enough room for everyone else to engage. Space to say, I have felt this way, I have placed my hand on something marked OPEN FLAME and felt satisfaction. I have made the same mistake. Again. And again.

This album says here is what your desperation can sound like; beautiful. Here is how you are alone, and that is how you are always winning.

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Stream Be the Cowboy below


Olivia Grace: An Interview

By Delaney Clifford

Photo By Bianca Garcia

Photo By Bianca Garcia

Olivia Grace is a fresh new musician that’s ready to be heard. Hailing from Maryland but taking current strides in New York City, Grace has set her sights on breaking the mold with her airy, melodic voice playing into your dreams. With her three song EP “Heart Shaped Bruises,” Grace showed us her powerful voice, boasting multiple influences from separate genres and creating a versatile sound that any listener can get behind. With the upcoming release of her new material, I got the opportunity to talk with the young artist to get some insider information on what we could expect from the upcoming release of “Blackbird.” Here’s what she had to say:

Can you tell us some of your musical influences?

Growing up, my dad would play a lot of jazz music. He loved Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole— all the jazz guys.  My mom, however, would play artists like Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, and Joni Mitchell— so I got the best of both worlds growing up. I listen to a lot of various styles of music, though. I’ve always admired artists like Regina Spektor, Agnes Obel, CocoRosie, etc. My influences are constantly changing. I hear music coming out now that I really connect with and get inspired by.

With your release of Heart Shaped Bruises back in February, you described a story of a lost love of some kind, and the recovery from that hurt. Can you tell us a little about that story?

Well, when I wrote that song there was a lot imagery in my mind. It felt like watching a movie that hasn’t been created yet. The song wasn’t really created from a specific situation I was personally going through. At first, the song was inspired by certain words. I wanted it to be kind of playful, using words and phrases like “bubble gum balls and a chocolate heart” or “curled eyelashes flutter away.” As I writing it, the combination of the chord changes and melody together felt really nostalgic to me— especially when it goes into the chorus. It changes tempo, rhythm, and key. The whole song kind of became about creating this feeling of transporting through time, reflecting on something that once felt magical, whatever that may be for the listener, and reliving that— like having a really great dream that you wake up from. 

With your new single, listeners can prepare for a bit of a darker sound than they’ve grown accustomed to. What prompted that change?

I think the sound started to get really dark once I got into the studio. I originally wrote it on the piano. It already had this underlying chaotic feeling to it, but the production really brought that out. It just felt right. We started playing with beats and harmonies, and it just got darker and darker, but I really liked it.

In your new single, you feature a lot of animal imagery; can you tell us about that choice and how it ties into the message of the song?

I had this line stuck in my head that I wanted to write a song using— “into the jungle, into the wild.” So I already had this jungle imagery in my mind, and when I was writing the song, it got kind of chaotic. When you listen towards the end of the song, it starts speeding up pretty intensely, and I wanted others to feel that same level of chaos I felt when I was writing it. The song can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. For me, the blackbird is a symbol of a guardian and someone you wouldn’t expect to be there for you even though they end up being the one to come through. The lines “snakes at your feet wrapped in a pile, pulling you in won’t you stay for a while, until the blackbird flies the mile…” symbolizes the people who aren’t good for you. They aren’t trustworthy— they’re snakes, and sometimes you might not see that right away. They’re this representation of deceit. The jungle and animal imagery just felt like a good way to get this message across, even though it wasn’t originally the inspiration for how the song came about being created.

Can you tell us about what’s next for you with this new release?

I have some things in the works, but nothing I can confirm just yet. I’m very excited, though! Listeners can hear “Blackbird” out everywhere September 30th.

You can check out Oliva Grace here:

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Review of TEENS OF DENIAL; or, Review of Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork Aftershow at Empty Bottle, Chicago, 7/16/16; or, Review of My Pesky Emotions (The Ballad of A)

Photo by  Morgan Martinez .

Photo by Morgan Martinez.

FIRST VERSE:

And how should I begin?

Last Friday: I went from zero (an unhurried forty-five-minute walk from my apartment to Union Park for day one of Pitchfork Festival) to sixty (impatiently bemoaning the amorphous blob-line waiting to get through the gates over which Car Seat Headrest's first song drifted) in three seconds flat.

Last Friday, Saturday: I went from zero (fine with missing Car Seat Headrest's sold-out Pitchfork aftershow, they'll come back, I'm not that into them, no big deal) to sixty (leaving the festival five hours early to lurk around Empty Bottle for three hours waiting to snag one of a few door tickets; though sleep-short and body-weary and standing-sore, I held my place at the front of the crowd through two opening bands [not to say that Detroit's Stef Chura and Chicago locals Pool Holograph didn't themselves play super solid sets]) in three seconds flat.

Last week, this week: I started at zero (Teens of Denial sounds pretty good, but I'll probably not listen to it more than a few times), slid a foot lightly onto the pedal (I'm tired and feeling lousy at work, but at least I really like this album now, hm), and shot up to sixty (setting up an enormously goofy Facebook page named "True Car Seat Headrest Fan Club" [aiming to dodge the trouble I might get in for designating the page "official"]) in three seconds flat.

I can't write this without admitting that I'm having to reread my recent piece on Jessica Lea Mayfield and parasocial relationships to calm myself down; it feels almost unethical to omit that.

I tweeted to Will Toledo requesting a brief interview even though (because?) I've been posting many wildly lascivious tweets about him.

I'm in a place where listening to Mitski is an act of self-care, because it's not listening to Car Seat Headrest.

I'm in a state.

*

CHORUS:

I give up I give up I give up I give up
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

SECOND VERSE:

How can I move on after beginning?

Teens of Denial reminds me of another of my favorite records released so far this year, Mitski's wonderful Puberty 2. But where Mitski masters the thirty-minute album and the three-minute song, Teens stretches above an hour and recalls other expansive albums that have affected me profoundly in the decade since I started to find myself musically. (In our post-"epic win" world I kind of hate using that first word but feel I can't avoid it here.) With The Monitor it shares elaborate ship metaphors and battle-cry choruses; themes of death and rebirth emerge over the course of Teens, The Moon & Antarctica, Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, and Kendrick Lamar's works. Like Broken Social Scene's self-titled record (and the others I've mentioned, really, now that I think about it), Teens is exhausted by living and yet manages a great deal of genuine tenderness. These albums feel giving: halfway through them you're satisfied, and then they offer you more. They also approach (in my opinion) perfection: no filler, nothing superfluous. (I have to wonder if women artists don't yet feel quite comfortable taking up so much space and time. It's hard to come up with Infinite Jests or Blonde on Blondes by women—Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me, with its appropriately generous-tending title, is one example that does come to mind. But conciseness is a skill, too.)

Musically, Teens doesn't sound new. It sounds classic, which is not at all a bad thing; it also sounds really good, marking a departure from the lo-fi quality of Toledo's previous releases and featuring exhilarating guitars and vocal crescendos. Toledo's great accomplishment, though, is his lyrics. It's not so surprising that this album and Mitski's latest both refer to adolescence in their titles: both are about angst (if not mental illness proper), self-knowledge, growing up, and the hard slow work of all that. I'm twenty-five. These things are interesting to me.

*

CHORUS:

You will always be a loser
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

THIRD VERSE:

What might I have asked Will Toledo, had he responded right away to my request? Some ideas:

How does it feel to finally get this kind of recognition after working unsigned for so long? Is it strange, or does it just feel earned? Were you always ambitious as far as eventually attaining some level of fame? In "1937 State Park,” you sing: "I didn't want you to hear that shake in my voice; my pain is my own"—do you write for an audience, or are your songs, above all, your own?

Teens is concerned with self-improvement and includes a lot of advice, or self-talk that doubles as advice. Did you worry about crossing from earnest over into corny? (I don't think that he does.)

What comes first, lyrics or music?

Do interviewers ever annoy the hell out of you?

And what comes next?

*

BRIDGE:

“Unfortunately I am afraid, as always, of going on. For to go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.”
―Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

Let's take a look at the lyrics:

"Stop your whining, try again. No one wants to cause you pain. They're just trying to let some air in, but you hold your breath. I hold my breath." I'm going to make a playlist called "I Choose Sadness". It will include Teens's opening track, Mitski's "A Burning Hill", and Rilo Kiley's "The Good that Won't Come Out", among other songs I wish I didn't relate to.

"We're just trying, I'm only trying to get home: drunk drivers, drunk drivers. Put it out of your mind and perish the thought—there's no comfort in responsibility." We're growing up, let's get uncomfortable.

"This isn't sex, I don't think. It's just extreme empathy. She's not my ex. We never met, but do you still think of me?" These lines hit close to home and don't help at all with the wreck of a parasocial relationship I've found myself in.

"I've been waiting all my life. I've been waiting for some real good porn, something with meaning, something fulfilling. I'd like to make my shame count for something." Neither do these.

"How was I supposed to know how to not get drunk every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and why not Sunday?" My college years could have been so much more productive had I only known how. Lately I am learning to appreciate the experience of not getting drunk at shows. It feels so good.

"Hangovers feel good when I know it's the last one. Then I feel so good that I have another one." Learning is difficult. Living is difficult.

Keeping this brief is difficult.

"We're dancing, right? This is dancing."

*

CHORUS:

It doesn't have to be like this
It doesn't have to be like this

*

OUTRO:

"How am I supposed to [open up my heart] when I go to the same room every night, and sleep in the same bed every night, the same fucking bed with the red comforter with the white stripes, and the yellow ceiling light makes me feel like I'm dying? The sea is too familiar; how many nights have I drowned here? How many times have I drowned?"
—Car Seat Headrest, "The Ballad of the Costa Concordia"

(Even just thinking about some of Toledo's lyrics makes me cry.)

Back to last Friday: after Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork set, I headed to another of the festival's stages to stake out a good spot for Carly Rae Jepsen's. That crowd did grow large, and it might have been the most ecstatic one I'd ever been a part of. But then it's Saturday night and spirits are just as high amid Car Seat Headrest's Empty Bottle audience.

Jepsen's latest album has won over a diverse swath of listeners with lyrics that feel universally accessible as well as intelligent and mature. (Emotion is a bit like a kids' movie that adults praise as being "actually really smart".) Toledo's lyrics are more likely to make you suspect they were written especially for you: they're complex, verbose; they describe experiences and emotions that don't get a lot of radio play. But the thing is, they'll make you and you and you believe they were meant just for you and you and you. The crowd at the Bottle that night shouted along with the same kind of passion that Jepsen's fans had expressed the day before.

CREDITS

Buy or stream Teens of Denial, ASAP. Try your best to see Car Seat Headrest play live whenever you're graced with the chance.