Mitski achieves classic status with Puberty 2

Puberty 2A few days after the plaudits started rolling in for "Your Best American Girl", Mitski decided to post a little exposition of the song on Facebook. She'd noticed that a lot of reviews had "agreed on a narrative that "she wrote this song to stick it to 'the white boy indie rock world'!" but I wasn't thinking about any of that when I was writing it..." Of course she acknowledges the borrowed tropes, the nods to Orientalism, the male gaze, and so on. She understands that writers have to "decide on a theme" from which to hang their own ideas. She gets it. It's just that "Your Best American Girl" is a love song, and every reference to gender and race and nationality is a single drop of rain beating a path to the ocean of that person will not ever love you the way that you love them. It comes from a place of unadulterated hurt, the kind that you start to couch in terms of a bereavement, because the lexicon of love is too pitifully inane to capture its spread. It is not a calculated sleight against cultural mores. This is a useful primer for Puberty 2.

First and foremost, the 25 year old's fourth outing is an astonishing rock album on musical merit alone. Though some tracks employ the quiet-loud dynamic that Pixies once nailed down, Mitski's songs tend to explode in bright colours, then refuse to fade back. Neither "I Bet On Losing Dogs" or the appropriately titled "Fireworks" reach the three-minute mark, and yet they feel epic, bursting out of the tracks and never looking back: verse, verse, bridge, chorus, post-chorus, everything at once, end. Second single "Happy" is another gloriously kitchen sink affair, opening the album with a harsh, rapid-fire drum beat before evolving into a David Byrne-esque piece of nerd-funk. Several listens in, I still haven't worked out what "Dan the Dancer" is about either, but it's such a perfect garage-rock blowout that I could happily remain in ignorance.

Like all great songwriters, though, what elevates this album is not just the quality of the words and music on display, but her ability to combine them in such a way that lends grace to the moments of levity, and weight to its ballast. "Your Best American Girl" is undeniably the highlight - but how could it not be? "You're the sun," she sings like a lullaby, "you've never seen the night, but you hear its song from the morning birds. Well, I'm not the moon; I'm not even a star, but, awake at night, I'll be singing to the birds." Emotionally, you're right there with her, infatuated, so that the waves of angst and distorted guitars that ride the chorus hit even harder when they fall. Later, you find yourself suppressing laughter and then tears within the space of a few minutes. The wonderfully titled "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars" barrels in like a Mclusky number, and finds the narrator shouting various declarations to the world: "I better ace that interview! I better ace that interview! I should tell them that I'm not afraid to die! I better ace that interview!" It's stupidly fun, rendering the listener completely unprepared for "Thursday's Girl", a sweep of melancholy more akin to Elizabeth Fraser guesting on a Perfume Genius track.

The world doesn't need any more beard-stroking articles pontificating on the death of guitar music, or its glorious resurrection, and I have no intention of writing one. Besides, that would imply that Puberty 2 is part of a larger cultural movement, that it might somehow usher in a new wave of kids in leather jackets and Fenders writing rock's hagiographies of the future. In fact, it's just the opposite: an utterly stand-alone record, a bolt from the blue that cares nothing for fashion or consumer appetite. So Mitski, please understand me when I say that, although the nature of our work as writers dictates that we issue well-rounded copy, with balanced points, thematic structure, and a cute call-back to the opening paragraph's ideas in the summary, this is really nothing of the sort. It's a love letter, addressed to the classic album you just made.

Release: 17th June 2016, Dead Oceans


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *