Recorded over two weeks in Westchester, New York, with producer Patrick Hyland, Puberty 2 retains the intimacy of Mitski’s last full-length, Bury Me At Makeout Creek. But in the two years between records, the “half-Japanese, half-American but not fully either” songwriter has added heft to her sound and complexity to her lyrics.
Puberty 2 is full of isolation, anxiety and loss, with the idea at its centre that happiness eventually becomes sadness and despair. Mitski switches between airy minimalism and bursts of loose, wild rock as she navigates these tempestuous waters. The calm, eerie synthscape of Crack Baby contains the album’s defining lyric: “You know that you had it once / and you know that you want it back.”
That desire shows up constantly: on the saxophone-charged Happy, about the simple devastation of a lover leaving on delicate, romantic One More To See You, about being desperate for secret moments together on the rousing Fireworks, about the fear that life will rip away a person’s strongest emotions. Standout tune Your Best American Girl, which recalls the slacker magic of golden-era Guided by Voices, explores her feelings that maybe she’s never had “it” – she’s too different, as a woman of colour, to be with the “all-American boy” she wants.
Despite singing about pain, Mitski’s delivery translates into self-acceptance. That may sound contradictory, but she further nails that dichotomy on gently powerful finale A Burning Hill. Over sparse acoustic guitar, she comes to terms with her warring selves – the neat “white button-down” woman and a blazing forest fire. It’s a deeply personal but universal sentiment: we all contain multitudes.
Top track: Your Best American Girl
Mitski plays the Horseshoe on July 22. See listing.