After Lush and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, Brooklyn-based artist Mitski traded in her piano and full-size orchestra for noisy guitar riffs, quaking percussion, and a hot pink bass. In 2014, she released Bury Me At Makeout Creek, a garage rock album that departed dramatically from the classical and experimental sound of her first two albums all the while maintaining a (now-iconically Mitski) sense of emotional transparency. Bury Me At Makeout Creek swims and glides along surfy rhythms in songs like “Townie” and “First Love / Late Spring” and then comes crashing and breaking down in “I Don’t Smoke” and “Drunk Walk Home” and into a halt in “Last Words of a Shooting Star”. To say the album took the D.I.Y. rock world by storm would be an understatement. People lauded her as the second coming of an indie messiah, here to resurrect the male-dominated, whitewashed, and trope-filled dying indie world. She, on the other hand, expressed the lack of magic and divine intervention in her music and instead articulated that her music comes from genuine passion and serious dedication to her craft along with a strong personal narrative that’s been thoroughly reflected upon.
This past month she has released her fourth album, Puberty 2, aptly named for the flood of teen dread and angst that seem to come a second time around in your 20s. The feelings are reminiscent, but altogether filled with new shades of meaning and grounded in uncharted territory. And thus, “Puberty 2”. The album is an electrifying stop-start ride that trails the nuances of being lost, heartbroken, and in your 20s. The feeling of having the ground slip out from under you (“My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”) and the feeling of falling that comes after (“A Loving Feeling”). The feeling of love when love is destructive (“Happy”). And the feeling of being so painfully in love with someone in a relationship that won’t last (“Your Best American Girl”). All the dark aches and pains that frequently get loosely labeled as “growing pains”.
Though built on a foundation of murky and despairing emotions, the album does not—and will not—get eaten alive by this ill-willed darkness. Instead, Puberty 2 emerges with a sense of clarity for the listener. A gripping and reaching for a feeling of being grounded in some littler things in life, some gentleness, and some idea of a meaningful existence. Puberty 2 unabashedly screams, shouts, and aches against loose rhythms and fuzzy guitars, but then ultimately soothes. Today, Mitski will wear her white button-down.