Bury Me at Make Out Creek promises to be delicate, then shatters that promise within its first minute and a half. Mitski, a New York-based songwriter who put out two classically orchestrated albums while attending SUNY Purchase and now releases her first rock album via Double Double Whammy, has the kind of trained voice that you wouldn’t expect to break into a howl — at least not on record. But before “Texas Reznikoff” is over, her gentle acoustic guitar and plaintive soprano are interrupted by a crash of drums and distortion. “You’re the breeze in my Austin nights,” Mitski sings, topping off a love song that, like love can do, explodes out of nowhere.
Love and death and violence all smash into each other throughout the record, which delicately balances on a thin line between polished, academic pop music and unhinged punk rock. “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony/ I want a kiss like my heart is hitting the ground,” sings Mitski on “Townie” in one of this year’s most astonishing hooks. Later, she finishes the song by asserting that a fractured body that’s all hers is better than an intact one that belongs to someone else: “I’m not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be/ I wanna be what my body wants me to be.”
That’s the danger in this whole dance of love and desire and identity: How do you open yourself to someone else without losing the person you believe yourself to be? Between the bare beats of “Drunk Walk Home”, Mitski sings, “Though I may never be free/ Fuck you and your money!/ I’m tired of your money.” The song starts to swell with feedback; power chords crunch in, and then somewhere, from the back of the room, Mitski screams. At first, you can’t tell the difference between the squeal of the guitars and the squall of her voice. Then you hear her inhale — sharply, furiously. The guitars drop away. All that’s left is her and the ragged strain of her voice.
It’s one tremendous moment in an album full of them — Mitski’s grip on melody, pacing, and composition is tight from years of practice, but the raw energy with which she applies it is what brings Make Out Creek to life. Her courage as a musician distinguishes her more than any amount of training. Here, it’s on full display.
Essential Tracks: “Townie”, “Drunk Walk Home”