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Aural Pleasure: Mitski's 'Puberty 2' 

In April, Mitski Miyawaki released a video for “Your Best American Girl,” the opening, pop-fuzz single to her fourth album, Puberty 2. In a red, daytime talk suit, she makes eyes at a slim, young hunk, the best American boy. But he has other plans, declining Mitski to make out and get PG-13 hands-y with a Coachella waif. When things get heated, the model couple wrap themselves in an American flag — Dov Charney’s best American dream.
“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me,” she sings, swaddled in distortion. “I guess I couldn’t help but try to be your best American girl.” The video is a simple, incredible and quite funny comment on swipe-right romance and dating outside one’s cultural comfort zone, from an artist who feels her identity in flux, as “half Japanese, half American, but not fully either.”

Delivering on the promise of its single, Puberty 2 is a brilliant confession on the problems and promise of life in your early 20s. On “Happy,” the 25-year-old imagines a brief tryst with happiness itself, in which the feeling comes over, with snacks, “comes inside of me” and leaves while she’s in the bathroom. Even if extended metaphors aren’t your thing, that’s an emotional honesty you don’t hear every day. In two to three minute bursts of crisp imagery, wall-of-noise guitar and razor wit, Mitski pins down the hormone rollercoaster of a time of self-reckoning and bad decisions. 

A major step forward from The Simpsons-referencing Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Puberty 2 is one of the few albums that shares artistic DNA with both Rivers Cuomo and Laurie Anderson. But Actor-era St. Vincent may be the best touchstone for this exciting new voice in indie rock. Like Annie Clark in 2009, Mitski is polishing up her creative vision, casting out the last few tropes of genre or cliche still hanging around. She’s not quite at the stadium headliner, Grammy-winning, model-dating android-genius level of Clark just yet, but  Mitski has found a worldview that only she can see.

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October 20, 2021

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