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Ebru Yildiz

Five on it: on her bewitching return, Mitski reminds us life isn’t linear

On her sumptuous surprise new song, Mitski is contemplating the constraints of capitalism. Plus new songs from Kelis, Moonchild Sanelly, Babeheaven and Milan Ring.

08 Oct 2021

When Mitski went on an indefinite leave from touring back in 2019, she caused a bit of a stir. In this day and age – of streaming and dwindling physical sales – merch and live shows are the last bastions of coin for many a musician and, of course, the most primal and direct way to connect with fans. After the initial outcry, the Japanese-American artist felt the need to set the record straight, writing on socials:

“Me? Quit music?? I’ve been on non-stop tour for over 5years, I haven’t had a place to live during this time, & I sense that if I don’t step away soon, my self-worth/identity will start depending too much on staying in the game, in the constant churn. I don’t want to make art like that, especially when you’re offering your valuable time and hearts and money to it. So I hope you’ll have me back whenever that is, or if I start over then I start over.”

So this week’s return took many by surprise, especially because the announcement was accompanied by an extensive slew of international shows across the U.S and Europe. Clearly, Mitski found precisely what she needed in her sabbatical from the stage.

Fittingly, her new single ‘Working for the Knife’ confronts this symbiotic conflict head on: “I cry at the start of every movie / I guess ‘cause I wish I was making things too,” she begins, going on to account the paradox of feeling the heart-tug of creative endeavours whilst being dragged back by the mundanity of life’s essential obligations. “I start the day high and I end so low / ‘Cause I’m working for the knife”. 

That feeling of wanting and being capable of more, yet being denied opportunity and satisfaction is something that we can all relate to; the battle to balance practicality while pursuing dreams. This eternal struggle – and the wanton loss of the childhood naivety that it spawns from – eats away at Mitski. “It’s about going from being a kid with a dream, to a grown up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind,” she has said in the press release, “It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognize your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.”

Though it’s been a time of uncertainty, it is clear that Mitski has worked her way out of her own frustration, sculpting a piece of music that reconnects with the audience that she needed to slip away from. In its own way, her return shows that it is fine if our personal needs and aspirations don’t progress with a trajectory that is linear. 

Mitski – ‘Working for the Knife’

Opening with a semi-industrial clatter, ‘Working for the Knife’ has a briskly chilly air, the kind that seeps into your bones and is concurrently hard to shake. That resigned sadness permeates Mitski’s realisation that even despite her best efforts, she too could not escape the grasp of The ‘proverbial’ Man. It is dense and bewitching all at once.

Kelis – ‘Midnight Snacks’

Yes, Kelis is back and dropping new music! It’s been a whole seven years since she released her last album Food, and in the time since she has moonlighted as a farmer, culinary writer and presenter on Netflix’s Cooking with Cannabis; clearly food is a passion and ‘Midnight Snacks’ follows suit. Taking her sound back to basics with its alluring production and skittish beats, the track double entendres ‘snacks’ and ‘sex’ in a way that is totally tasty.

Moonchild Sanelly and Sad Night Dynamite – ‘Demon’

Moonchild Sanelly and moody duo Sad Night Dynamite are a match made in heaven as they delve into their dark side on new collaboration ‘Demon’. With the twisted instrumental – sparked by a nightmare of being on trial for being a witch that haunted SND’s Josh – serving as the perfect accompaniment to the “very real and dark experience” that Sanelly was going through, ‘Demon’ glitches and throbs with eerie poise.

Babeheaven – ‘The Hours’

The concept of time shifting (or lack thereof this past year, at least) is something that we can universally relate to. The first new music from the West London band since their lauded debut album Home For Now, this track captures a breezy stride with its dreamy guitar and pattering percussion: it’s as lush as they come.

Milan Ring – ‘Pick Me Up’ feat. Jean Deaux

Australian talent Milan Ring has always been one to tread her own path with her music, and she doesn’t disappoint on the new single ‘Pick Me Up’. Spearheading the renaissance of R&B Down Under, this latest track intertwines ethereal guitar work with pulsing bass and eclectic beats as it harks to what she’s described as themes of “vanity, sexuality and confidence played out in a blurry club”.