After her wonderfully weird hosting gig during Sunday’s MTV VMAs, Miley Cyrus closed out the show with a performance of her new single Dooo It and announced her free album Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz (listen here).
Cyrus kicks off the album with a clear explanation of what tone the record will take, singing “Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love weed” on Dooo It. There’s no mistaking that the former Hannah Montana star wants you to know she indulges in the green, executing as many references to weed as possible to make the best use of her time on a label-free album.
The heavy influence of Cyrus’s friendship with The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne is all over the tracks produced by the band, including the gloomy, dreamy Karen Don’t Be Sad.
On The Floyd Song, Cyrus despairs over trying to be happy while being held back over the loss of her beloved dog Floyd. For non-pet owners, the song still works for those who have lost human best friends.
Hitting easy notes in a safe range for the first three songs, Miley seems to finally sit up in the studio while recording Space Boots, temporarily abandoning the sleepy vocals that make up the majority of the album. The same somber tone is still present in the song’s lyrics, with Miley longing for the person (or pet) who donned space boots.
On BB Talk, Cyrus pulls back the curtain on her inner dialogue, with speaking verses showing the artist getting real about being in a new relationship while still pining for an ex-lover. Apparently the always-shocking and controversial Cyrus does have a limit and in BB Talk we learn it’s PDA. Miley gives some Gwen Stefani-esque vocals for the track, singing that she’s trying to become comfortable with the “baby talk” in the relationship and enjoy someone paying her attention.
Cyrus goes back to her apathetic singing on Fweaky, cooing about having sex with someone for the first time after leaving a long-term relationship. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics unfold like a stream of consciousness, but it works.
Bang Me Box is the first song on the album to sound like its been heavily produced and not just because it opens with the trademark “MikeWillMadeIt” tagline. Layered vocals and a guitar-driven backtrack makes it one of the few contenders for a radio-friendly single, aside from the overtly sexual nature of the song. I mean, it is called Bang Me Box.
Cyrus’ sex-positive theme continues, with the space-sounding Milky Milk Milk comprised of lyrics that would make any astronaut blush. Just as quickly as she’s singing about a variety of sexual acts, Miley changes gears and takes a haunting, melodramatic tone in Cyrus Skies, singing about her past indiscretions with the sadness of someone who is still burdened by her demons.
On Slab of Butter, Cyrus features the first of three guest vocalists with Sarah Barathel of Phantogram and one of the few songs containing non-NSFW lyrics. One of the most visual songs on the tracklist, Slab of Butter features an electronic-driven trance sound that stands out on the new record.
I Forgive Yiew is probably the closest to Cyrus’ 2013 album Bangerz sound-wise, but the lyrics show a much more relaxed, zen-like Miley. Proving that her emotionally vulnerable Wrecking Ball wasn’t just a one-off, Cyrus’ I Get So Scared is the singer at her rawest and most relatable. Backed by a guitar and a soft electronic beat, Miley sings, “I get so scared that thinking I’ll never get over you,” finally showing off her impressive vocal range and control. Taking on an ’80s vibe with Lighter, Cyrus again displays her emotional aptitude on the understated ballad.
The tail end of Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz makes a decisively dark turn, with each song taking on an increasingly morose vibe. Tangerine is a melancholic trance track that features Big Sean slowing down his trademark relaxed rapping style even further, getting introspective about life, love and the future.
Miley and singer Ariel Pink sound like they recorded their duet Tiger Dreams in the middle of a bad trip, with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne leaving his musical fingerprints all over the Sgt. Pepper’s-esque track. Evil Is But A Shadow plays like a song that was left off Baz Luhrmann’s soundtrack for The Great Gatsby, with film noir vocals and a beat that can be best described as trepidatious. Switching gears away from sex, drugs and love for a minute, Cyrus gets political with her call to action for environmental responsibility on 1 Sun.
Pablow The Blowfish is a somber piano track about Cyrus’ deceased blowfish, a must-listen for anyone who has lost a pet. The lyrics stray into obscurity a times, but Miley brings it back to her pet, breaking down in tears and singing through the pain to finish the song.
The trippy, lovesick and pro-marijuana album ends with Miley describing a dream about David Bowie, screaming the proverbial question, “What does it mean?” It’s a question that can be applied to about anything, including Cyrus’ new album. What does it mean when a child star turned pop star can use her money to make an album free from record company pressure to deal with love, loss, and questions of mortality?
Cyrus is going through four years of college, first-year philosophy and drugs included, on Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz. At times the singer becomes a caricature of herself, but her lack of self-editing and willingness to let her freak flag fly are refreshing. On Slab Of Butter, Miley sings “The only laws I obey are the ones I make up for myself,” and she means it.
The album definitely has some fat that can be cut, like the interlude I’m So Drunk, which is comprised of Cyrus singing “I’m so drunk I can’t explain how I feel right now,” and the multitude of references to her love of marijuana quickly tire. But what Cyrus has accomplished is an album that sounds like an artist in the midst of not only discovering their voice, but their identity.
The free-flow of lyrics and sounds give the listener the authentic experience of being in the studio with Miley and The Flaming Lips, where we imagine the phrase “Let’s try it and see how it goes,” was used more than a few times. There’s nothing calculated or easy about Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz and listeners have to be willing to sit through the odd nonsensical ramble to get to the good stuff. But there sure is a lot of good stuff.