When I was preparing to write this article, I looked up whether there were any UFO sightings in my home area of Long Island – and to my surprise, there were quite a few. In fact, Suffolk County reported the highest number of UFO sightings of anywhere in New York state, with more than 800 over a fourteen-year period. There could be any number of explanations for why this is so: Suffolk has less light pollution than Nassau, its neighbor to the west, and a diverse array of air traffic (commercial aircraft usually fly too high to register, but there are plenty of private jets, helicopters and Coast Guard activity) means there are plenty of opportunities for strange flashing lights in the sky.
But what’s strange is that I haven’t heard of any of them. Maybe I’m just not privy to this sort of information. But maybe it’s also because, if there are any strange UFOs out there, it’s hard to imagine they would land on Long Island. We’re too small, too densely populated. Maybe an eldritch sea monster will surface off the coast of Montauk, but UFOs belong to the West: Lubbock, Socorro, Roswell. Whatever aliens want from us, they’re apparently fascinated by arid deserts, lonely highways, and unsuspecting cows.
“Missing Cows & You,” the engaging new song by singer-songwriter Natalina, plays on the mythology of the UFO in the American West. In a statement that came with the song, they say that road signs featuring UFOs stealing cows are ubiquitous in the northern New Mexico/southern Colorado area, where Natalina spends their time. Over a sparse, throbbing beat tinged with bittersweet guitar, the song’s narrator seems to take this threat seriously. They want to know if “the cows are really safe again,” and what the meaning of “these yellow warning signs” might be. With their voice evoking the graceful, soulful power of Kate Bush’s lower register, Natalina sounds as earnest as can be – which is both quite funny and quite emotionally resonant.
There are, of course, no UFOs out to steal cattle (that we know of). Those signs are just kitsch for postcards and tourists. But in this pretty, surprisingly delicate song, Natalina sounds like they’re so adrift – due to personal drama as hinted by the title, or by the world around them – that alien abductions might as well happen. “The world’s gone mad, and I might, too,” they murmur – a resigned response to an illogical world that feels as real as a desert mirage and as dangerous as a tractor beam.