(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Lush (2012), 5/10
Retired from Sad - New Career in Business (2013), 6.5/10
Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014), 7/10
Puberty 2 (2016), 6.5/10
Be the Cowboy (2018), 6/10
Laurel Hell (2022) , 6/10
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (2023), 5/10

Japanese-born singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki debuted with collections of mostly piano-driven orchestral songs while she was still a student in upstate New York. The eight-song mini-album Lush (2012) harked back to the sophisticated intellectual crooners of previous decades (the likes of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush) with the jazzy Liquid Smooth, the bluesy Bag of Bones, the austere piano lied of Wife, the hypnotic psychoanalysis of Pearl Diver. Instead, the Randy Newman-esque vaudeville of Real Men and the hard-rocking and dissonant Brand New City show greater ambitions.

The stylistic palette of Retired from Sad - New Career in Business (2013), another concise collection (eleven songs in less than 30 minutes). is quite broad, ranging from Goodbye My Danish Sweetheart, which recalls Art Bears-esque prog-rock of the 1970s, to Strawberry Blond, a jovial round dance reminiscent of the folk revival of the 1960s. The sinister chamber lied Square represents a balance of sorts between the two, and Shame shows the full potential of the idea: a post-Bjork-ian ode within a chamber accompaniment that is cinematic and almost dissonant. Piano elegies such as I Want You and Because Dreaming Costs Money My Dear (influenced by Pachelbel's and Bach's music) exude a quiet but profound sadness, although Class of 2013 soars to an almost defiant tone.

After graduation Mitski turned to guitar-driven rock on Bury Me at Makeout Creek (Dead Oceans, 2014), an album where she seemed to rediscover the rocking female singer-songwriters of the 1990s, such as Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair, and Juliana Hatfield. Her theme of "death of innocence" is now more extroverted: the country lament Texas Reznikoff suddenly erupts into a maniac pounding singalong, Drunk Walk Home is almost punk-rock, and the catchy Townie is a full-fledged burning saloon boogie. Her vulnerability is turning violent. On the other hand, the heartbreak anthem First Love/ Late Spring is a hybrid of the gentle folk-rock and the romantic French ye-ye girls of the 1960s, and Francis Forever is a lullaby very much in the vein of the latter. She couples that melancholy naive tone with Nirvana-esque guitar in Francis Forever (another melodic peak), and I Don't Smoke weds the distorted guitar of doom-metal with the austere singing of a Renaissance madrigal. The lyrical peaks are still bare: Carry Me Out, a crescendo from barely whispered to choral singalong, and Last Words of a Shooting Star for only acoustic guitar.

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Hyland twisted her songs on Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans, 2016), starting with the industrial beats and saxophones of Happy and with the glitchy slow dance of Thursday Girl. Her "rock" alter-ego shines in more aggressive tunes: Your Best American Girl, her breakout song, bridges slocore and shoegazing, My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars is a chaotically noisy punk-ish street rant, worthy of the great mad David Peel, and A Loving Feeling boasts the catchy refrains and rowdy garage-rock of Phil Spector's girl-groups. Halfway towards that goal, she crafts an elegant orchestral ballad in Fireworks, but, more importantly, she then adds a hypnotic psychedelic feeling to the format with I Bet on Losing Dogs, and wraps it in atmospheric organ phrases in Crack Baby. Her anxiety and depression mainly permeates Once More to See You, inspired by the dreamy lullabies of thr teen idols of the 1960s, and especially the simple folk elegy A Burning Hill ("I am a forest fire/ And I am the fire and I am the forest/ And I am a witness watching it/ I stand in a valley watching it/ And you are not there at all").

Patrick Hyland exaggerated a bit on the clumsily arranged Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans, 2018), an album that packs 14 songs in 32 minutes. The effect is to sometimes trivialize loneliness and heartbreak, for example in the bombastic Geyser, in the dance-pop of Why Didn't You Stop Me, in the sprightly singalong Washing Machine Heart (a strong beat coupled with vintage synth), in the even more danceable single Nobody (feverish funky guitar and steady disco beat), and in the soaring operatic A Pearl, perhaps the most theatrical moment. On the other hand, the more introverted tunes, starting with the emotional orchestral pop of Pink in the Night and the country lament Lonesome Love, sound less charming than their predecessors. The bugglegum pop of Me and My Husband, the folk carillon of Old Friend and the ethereal Blue Light try a bit too hard to make her unhappiness sound entertaining. Two Slow Dancers returns to the chamber pop of her first two albums, A Horse Named Cold Air is a solemn piano elegy worthy of her first album,

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Pierluigi Napoli)

La singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki, nata in Giappone, ha debuttato con raccolte di canzoni orchestrali principalmente guidate dal piano, mentre era ancora studentessa nella parte nord di New York. Il mini album di otto canzoni Lush (2012) rievoca le crooner sofisticate e intellettuali dei decenni precedenti (del calibro di Joni Mitchell e Kate Bush) con la jazzata Liquid Smooth, la bluesy Bag of Bones, l’austero lied al piano di Wife, la psicoanalisi ipnotica di Pearl Diver. Invece, il vaudeville in stile Randy Newman di Real Men e l’hard-rock e dissonante Brand New City mostrano ambizioni maggiori.

La tavolozza stilistica di Retired from Sad - New Career in Business (2013), un’altra concisa raccolta (undici brani in meno di 30 minuti), e’ abbastanza ampia, variando da Goodbye My Danish Sweetheart, che richiama il prog-rock degli anni ’70 in stile Art Bears, a Strawberry Blond, un gioviale girotondo che ricorda il revival folk degli anni ‘60. Il sinistro lied da camera Square rappresenta un equilibrio di generi tra i due, e Shame mostra il massimo potenziale dell’idea: un’ode post-Bjork-iana all’interno di un accompagnamento da camera che e’ cinematico e quasi dissonante. Elegie al piano come I Want You e Because Dreaming Costs Money My Dear (influenzate dalla musica di Pachelbel e di Bach) emanano una tranquilla ma profonda tristezza, anche se Class of 2013 si eleva su un tono quasi provocatorio.

Dopo la laurea Mitski svolta verso un rock guidato dalla chitarra su Bury Me at Makeout Creek (Dead Oceans, 2014), un album sul quale sembra riscoprire le singer-songwriter femminili degli anni ‘90, come Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair, e Juliana Hatfield. Il suo tema della "morte dell’innocenza" e’ adesso piu’ estroverso: il lamento country Texas Reznikoff improvvisamente esplode in un maniaco singalong martellante, Drunk Walk Home e’ quasi punk-rock, e l’orecchiabile Townie e’ un vero e proprio boogie ardente da saloon. La sua fragilitasta avendo un risvolto violento. D’altra parte, l’inno da cuore infranto First Love/Late Spring e’ un ibrido tra il dolce folk-rock e le romantiche ye-ye girls francesi degli anni ‘60, e Francis Forever e’ una ninnanana molto nella vena di quest’ultima. Abbina quel tono nostalgicamente ingenuo con una chitarra in stile Nirvana in Francis Forever (un altro picco melodico), e I Don't Smoke sposa la chitarra distorta del doom-metal con il canto austero di un madrigale rinascimentale. I momenti migliori dei testi sono ancora al minimo: Carry Me Out, un crescendo che va dall’appena sussurrato al singalong corale, e Last Words of a Shooting Star per sola chitarra acustica.

Il produttore e multistrumentista Patrick Hyland stravolge le sue canzoni su Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans, 2016), a partire con i battiti industriali e sassofoni di Happy e con la lenta danza glitch di Thursday Girl. Il suo alter-ego "rock" brilla in pezzi piu’ aggressivi: Your Best American Girl, il suo brano di successo, stende un ponte tra slowcore e shoegazing, My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars e’ un’invettiva di strada caoticamente rumorosa in stile punk, degna del grande folle David Peel, e A Loving Feeling vanta i ritornelli orecchiabili e il chiassoso garage-rock dei girl group di Phil Spector. A meta’ strada verso quell’obiettivo, crea una ballata orchestrale elegante in Fireworks, ma, ancora piu’ importante, aggiunge poi un tocco psichedelico ipnotico al formato con I Bet on Losing Dogs, e lo avvolge in frasi d’organo atmosferiche in Crack Baby. La sua ansia e depressione permeano soprattutto Once More to See You, ispirato alle ninnananne sognanti dei teen idol degli anni ‘60, e in particolare la semplice elegia folk A Burning Hill ("I am a forest fire/ And I am the fire and I am the forest/ And I am a witness watching it/ I stand in a valley watching it/ And you are not there at all").

Patrick Hyland esagera un po’ sul grossolanamente arrangiato Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans, 2018), un album che confeziona 14 canzoni in 32 minuti. L’effetto è talvolta di banalizzare la solitudine e il cuore infranto, per esempio nella pomposa Geyser, nel dance-pop di Why Didn't You Stop Me, nel vivace singalong Washing Machine Heart (un beat forte abbinato con un sintetizzatore vintage), nel persino piu’ ballabile singolo Nobody (chitarra funky febbrile e beat disco costante), e nell’impennata operistica A Pearl, forse il momento piu’ teatrale. D’altra parte, i pezzi piu’ introversi, a cominciare dal pop orchestrale emotivo di Pink in the Night e il lamento country Lonesome Love, suonano meno affascinanti dei loro predecessori. Il bugglegum pop di Me and My Husband, il carillon folk di Old Friend e la eterea Blue Light insistono un potroppo nel far sembrare divertente la sua infelicita’. Two Slow Dancers ritorna al pop da camera dei suoi primi due album, A Horse Named Cold Air e’ una solenne elegia al piano degna del suo primo album.

Laurel Hell (2022) is mainly focused on the synth-pop revival. Working for the Knife, The Only Heartbreaker, Love Me More and Should've Been Me evoke Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and even Abba. However the real gems are the soaring orchestral dream-pop of Valentine Texas and especially the funereal and martial elegy Heat Lightning.

The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (2023) contains the hit My Love Mine All Mine and little else of note.