Mitski, “Puberty 2”

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Puberty 2
DEAD OCEANS
8/10

Teenage desperation has always run deep in the tragicomic indie-pop songs of Mitski Miyawaki. So it’s no surprise that this theme is reprised for Puberty 2, the follow-up to 2014’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek—though now she’s moved on to more mature miseries. As the album title seems to suggest, this is a continuation of that awkward phase when unripe personalities fumble over happiness. On opening song “Happy,” the emotion is granted a persona, and in her Victorian croon the twenty-five-year-old sings, “I felt happy / Come inside of me.”

Indeed, moments of joy are quite dubious or muddled with unfairness on this album. It is a considerably diverse group of songs, with “Happy” fusing stubborn electronics and gruffly blown horns. The riotous ballads of Makeout Creek fade in the rearview, as Miyawaki offers an eclectic blend of sorrowful songwriting and performing.

And while her aspirations are perfectly admirable, Miyawaki approaches greatness when the arrangements are pared down or are whittled with a roughened edge. “Your Best American Girl,” which grasps for romance through the blouse of assimilation, proves this point very well. Its steely riffs are impossibly amplified, and between the distorted choruses Miyawaki sings, “I think I’ll regret this,” her voice sounding as fragile as the compromise. It’s the same energy that’s later harnessed for “A Loving Feeling,” a sleek ditty about casual intimacy.

While Puberty 2 might lack the round variance of an album, it thrives as a singles club, populated by songs that find exquisiteness within themselves—saddened bangers, if you will. After babbling the word “baby” for a sweet while in “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” she elides into the chorus, an ode to the luckless. For an experience so fraught with heartache and self-doubt, puberty is actually more enjoyable the second time around.

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