- by Nathan Fidler Rating:8 Release Date:2016-06-17 Label:
How has Mitski flown under the radar for this long? Your guess is as good as ours. There is plenty written about Mitski’s upbringing though, having been moved from country to country by her parents growing up, and her new album Puberty 2, like her previous three albums, doesn’t veer from that - in fact, it turns it into a strength.
Mitski does not reach for the tacky, throwback acknowledgement of “songstress”, her songs are her version of normal, but sound weighed down by the fact that her life has not been. ‘Happy’ is cut through by a relatively innocent melody, but it’s twinged with the sadness of Mitski admitting she’d “do anything” to have “happy” stay with her. Eventually, she finds the beauty in being left behind “take this heart, I’ll have no more use for it when there’s no more you”.
Across the album there is a bitter poetry, the driven, single-string strumming of ‘Fireworks’ combined with the phrase “One morning this sadness will fossilise”, hits hard. The themes at work here are those of disillusionment with life, an inability to come to terms with emotions, all things you might associate with puberty. Not that this is some teenage angst though. There is a genuinely haunting feeling at times, highlighted by 'Crack Baby' in particular.
From the Elliott Smith-esque opening of ‘Your Best American Girl’, right through to it’s bombastic close, this track is the best testament to Mitski’s skill as a songwriter and composer. While Retired From Sad, New Career In Business was more expansive in sound overall, this is a more competent effort for what is within one person’s capabilities.
The sounds of the 80s must surely have had an influence on this album, with ‘I Bet On Losing Dogs’ deploying a fairly emotionless metaphor for backing the losers, wrapped in swirling synth sounds. ‘A Loving Feeling’ pounces on the punk-pop of that era, thumping onwards and giving a hooky chorus of “what do you do with a loving feeling, if the loving feeling makes you all alone?”.
Some songs don’t last long enough, ‘My Body’s Made Of Crushed Little Stars’ a short, angry track where she laments numerous topics which could be better explored. But even in the short, sharp mess of such tracks, there is plenty to love.
This is a refreshing female voice, one which stands on it’s own two feet and spins love and loss in a way we’re not used to. It’s not like she can’t sing either, it’s just that the purity in music is given free roam here, not confined by borders, not written by some an industry shill. Pure creativity lives here, luring you in, undecided on whether it will tear your head off or bake you cookies until you’re inside.