Mitski – Puberty 2
Identity and introspection on the New York singer-songwriter's fourth album
This article is from 2016.
Coming to terms with notions of identity can be long and laborious. For singer-songwriter Mitski, the process is ongoing and one that is reflected upon often in her compositions and lyrics. Continuing on from the witty, introspective third album Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Puberty 2 strikes a balance between apprehension and self-empowerment, as told by means of broad and semi-familiar narratives.
This is epitomised perfectly in lead single ‘Your Best American Girl’, where the desire to conform conflicts with Mitski’s sense of self: ‘Your mother wouldn’t approve / Of how my mother raised me / But I do, I think I do.’ The song’s gradual, feedback-heavy build-up echoes her own defiance, a motif that appears throughout the album. But it also signals an anxiety with life, illustrating a curious middle ground most evident in opening track ‘Happy’.
Elsewhere on the album, Mitski unleashes her angst full throttle, like on the rowdy and rapid ‘My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars’, which brings to mind elements of 90s indie rock such as Neutral Milk Hotel. ‘Once More to See You’ is more wistful in its delivery, with an emphasis placed on her tender vocals. Similarly, on slow-burning ‘Thursday Girl’, the vocal line is sublime in its steady rise and fall.
In closing track ‘A Burning Hill’, a fingerpicked acoustic guitar accompanies the melody in what appears to be a fitting conclusion to the two-part story narrated in Bury Me at Makeout Creek and continued in Puberty 2. Rather than ending on a wholly positive note, Mitski hints at her own progress in the path to acceptance, noting: ‘I’ll love the littler things / I’ll love some littler things’.
Describing a period of uncertainty akin to adolescence, Puberty 2 brilliantly highlights Mitski’s personal and musical evolution through an experience that is universally shared, but not always fully understood.
Puberty 2 is out now via Dead Oceans