500 Miles for Miley

Miley Cyrus is back again, with another heartfelt album. "Endless Summer Vacation" is here, an ode to Cyrus’s own grief and vulnerability. The album oozes both nostalgia and melancholy, headlined with slow, heartbreak music like "Flowers" and "Jaded." "Flowers" itself was insanely popular on release, and you’ve probably heard it a half dozen times by now, and it's genuinely moving. The slow and subtle opening explodes into a pop refrain. It’s a song about loving yourself, a song about coming to terms with the loss of a romantic partner. Cyrus croons about picking yourself up, remembering who you are, and how you gotta care for yourself.

Jaded is another pop hit, with the feel of a romantic song you’d hear over the radio when driving. It’s not angry, but it still feels like a gut punch listening to it. There’s a sort of quiet sadness, and it leads into "Rose Colored Glasses," another ballad and another hit of melancholy. It’s a beautiful song, sparking imagery of the simple snapshots you’d want to keep forever, the pictures you’d want to just dive into, and the moments you’d want to repeat over and over again. Brandi Carlile joins Miley for "Thousand Miles," a song that is just a reminder of how being in love feels. It’s a little foray into romance in the meat of the album, and it delivers. "Thousand Miles" is about remembering that love in the rearview mirror, while "You" is about diving into that romance. "Handstand" is rawer, but the undertones give this one a lot more of a jarring tone. "River" is what happens if you take "You" and add into it the background of "Handstand," and boy does it deliver. "Violet Chemistry" is the last of this string of romantic songs, and it gives you just enough to know there was something beautiful here, and as the song winds down, you feel there. You’re the one in love.

And then, Miley hits you with "Muddy Feet," a scathing fight that puts you on the back step, only for a completely different tone in "Wildcard." Another romantic song, another trip into memories, followed by a quiet track in "Island," this time portraying something far more lonely.

To complete the journey that "Endless Summer Vacation" puts the listener through, Miley opens up about her grief in "Wonder Woman." It’s the story of someone who pushes their sadness down, who grins and bears it, who bore it even when she couldn’t. The album is a beautifully miserable experience. The opening, the anger and the relationship it focuses on, slowly gives way to the romantic memories, the stories of what had been, the spark that had started it all, only to slowly, step by step, lead you to the end of it all. It’s an amazing album, and hats off to Miley for delivering one more time.