New Yorker Mitski makes weird-indie music with a defiant angle: as a Japanese-American woman in a scene dominated by white males, she has plenty of fun mocking and undermining traditions with songs like ‘Your Best American Girl’. Puberty 2 is a sharp and confident songs, released by Dead Oceans.
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I want to say something meaningful about ‘Puberty 2’ but all I’ve got is that I love it, that it was fulfilling the first time I heard it and remains so long after the fact. I’d say it’s proof that indie rock isn’t shit, but that’s not really Mitski’s mission statement. I’ve just missed being caught up in a record -- this one has choruses to get tangled in and lyrical metamorphoses to climb out of. Just know that the 10/10 was probably edited out of this review.
This is the catchiest thing I’ve heard in a long time, to the point where I might call these songs anthems, but I’m not sure, so: are these anthems? I think so! Maybe. Let's call them half-singalongs. “Happy” builds brilliantly through punctuating programmed drums into a sax riff that sounds like it’s being wound back up and unleashed, as potent as pop-proud Springsteen. “Dan The Dancer” focuses itself on a split-screen rock music, opening on a grungy riff before squelching its way towards a second half of synth -- Mitski splits it down the middle with one of those enraged vocal moments, though it’s that final, lightly harmonised moment that makes the song feel huge. And then there’s “My Body’s Made Of Crushed Little Stars”, a wild fucking song that reminds me of the way people rally around Mountain Goats songs -- its fast, kinda offputting discordance makes you feel like an outsider with a hundred others by your side.
Even the slow burners feel charged with something: “Once More To See You” sounds like a fairly mid-tempo indie rock song italicized by wobbly key chords. “Your Best American Girl” sounds resolutely formless at first, but it only develops crucial sounds: a distorted vocal, a squealing synth and a booming low-end that makes heartbreak and lovesickness sound like good thematic queues for a national anthem. “I Bet On Losing Dogs” couples its chorus of wisecracked sombre lyrics with a vocal melody that seems to trace the sentiment on its downward descent.
It’s complicated stuff, though it sounds simple and satisfying in the interim. ‘Puberty 2’ has a lot going on behind the scenes, with Mitski developing songs along chaotic lines in order to live strange lives -- how about “Thursday Girl”, which goes from fragmented ambience to Enya new-age to an eventual slice of skittering electro-pop? Mostly, though, it strikes as a heart-melting, feeling-focused, sadness-amplifying rock (and some punk, why not) record, the kind that makes its listener think they’re digging on hooks when really they’re being reminded of their hangups.
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