CW: Brief discussion of suicide regarding the track “Last Words of A Shooting Star”
Falling in love is terrifying. It’s terrifying to have your emotional wellbeing intrinsically linked with another being. It’s terrifying to build your life around another person, knowing what you have together could always fall apart. Just look at the word “falling”; it’s implications are harsh, dangerous and suggests an action almost entirely involuntary. Mitski’s breakthrough third album Bury Me At Makeout Creek – named after a line from The Simpsons – is a concept album of sorts, based around the terror and joys of love. Opener “Texas Reznikoff” captures longing at its most visceral and intense; “I’ve been anywhere and it’s not what I want / I wanna be still with you”.
“You’re the breeze in my Austin nights”, Mitski sings of a lover later on in this track, but across the album’s following nine tracks, love is rarely portrayed as light and breezy. On “Townie”, she paints a truly disconcerting picture of a desired love (“I want a love that falls as fast / As a body from the balcony”). While on “First Love / Late Spring” – one of her most beloved and instantly recognisable songs – she finds herself utterly incapacitated by a relationship (“So please, hurry, leave me, I can’t breathe”). Elsewhere, on “I Don’t Smoke”, Mitski agrees to be the victim of a toxic relationship just so she can be loved (“If you need to be mean / Be mean to me / I can take it and put it inside of me”).
Mitski’s careful though at other points not to present herself as a passive victim; on “I Will” she carves out her own demands from a relationship, listing things she wants a lover to say to her (“I will take good care of you / Everything you feel is good”). While on “Drunk Walk Home”, she’s defiant in rejecting an ex, even if she knows she can never outrun the relationship’s shadow (“But though I may never be free / Fuck you and your money”).
Emotionally, there’s a huge amount of growth that’s been achieved between songs like “I Don’t Smoke” and “Drunk Walk Home”, and it’s on “Jobless Monday”, where Mitski most fully attempts to explain the progression between these states. In just four lines, she captures with laserpoint precision how a love that once seemed perfect can give way to a realisation of incompatibility and surface-level connection:
“He only loves me when
There’s a means he means he means to end
I miss when we first met
He didn’t know me yet”
Closer “Last Words of A Shooting Star” stands out from the rest of Makeout Creek’s songs. Here. plane turbulence momentarily pulls Mitski out of love’s trance and makes her consider her own mortality. She begins with a straightforward, if startlingly deadpan, declaration (“I am relieved that I’d left my room tidy / They’ll think of me kindly when they come for my things”), before giving way to a series of lines that suggest a deeper inner discontent – and even suicidal ideation.
“They’ll never know how I’d stared at the dark in that room”, Mitski sings at one point; a reflection on the facade of functionality maintained by her uncharacteristically tidy room. At another she uses the famous Liberty Bell (“silently housed in its original walls”) as a metaphor for her own stifled voice. In the final verse, she changes the words “I am relieved that I’d left my room tidy” to “I always wanted to die clean and pretty”; turning an already bleak attempt to find a silver lining into a much darker statement of intent. Over sparse, finger-picked guitar, she ends the songs – and therefore the album – with just one word – “Goodbye”. As the instrumentation fades out – that final word echoing in listeners ears – we are left answerless to wonder what of the narrator’s fate.
Best Tracks: Texas Reznikoff, Townie, First Love / Late Spring, Francis Forever, Last Words of A Shooting Star