Mitski’s last album, the wonderfully titled Bury Me At Makeout Creek, was something of a breakout, but the equally wonderfully-titled fourth album from the songwriter will arguably be her biggest release yet. The two teaser tracks, ‘Your Best American Girl’ and ‘Happy’ showed both her ability for anthemic rock and guitar-pop with the kind of jagged guitars, horns and synthetic drums that covered St. Vincent’s last album. Both of those singles were also heartfelt and self-examining. On ‘Your Best American Girl’, Mitski drew comparisons between not being able to fit into a relationship and not being able to fit into the projected aspirations of what the ‘American Girl’ should be, something that Mitski Miyawaki has a firsthand experience with. And then on ‘Happy’, Miyawaki breaks down happiness and the knowledge that even in a time of bliss, you’re always thinking what misery will hit next. But it isn’t a negative song, from the lyric of ‘And if you’re going take the moon / Then maybe I will see you’, because even if she isn’t happy, then she knows happiness will happen again and the moon will remind her of that.
I’m consistently knocked back by Mitski’s talents as a lyricist, which has come on in leaps and bounds since Bury Me At Makeout Creek. On ‘A Loving Feeling’, where Mitski describes a relationship disintegrating instead of breaking apart suddenly, and it’s heartbreaking. It goes from ‘Holding hands under the table / meeting up in your bedroom’ to ‘Making love to other people / telling each other its all good’ in an instant, and then the chorus of ‘what do you do with a loving feeling / if the loving feeling makes you all alone’. It’s almost as if she’s trying to trick herself into thinking that the feeling she’s experiencing is what any couple go through, and isn’t sure if it’s just normal, so she’s stuck in limbo. Then on ‘Dan The Dancer’, which could be about societal anxiety, but there’s definitely a sexual side to the last verse: ‘It was you and you alone / that he had shown his bedroom dance routine’ and ‘He would never tell you it was his first time’, presenting this character as someone so anxious that they can’t open up to anyone, but there’s a special person who he allows to see his dancing. Mitski has a knack for writing songs that are very easy to pick up on and are instantly relatable. She’s writing about things anyone can get their head around: relationships developing, relationships crumbling, sexuality, anxiety, happiness. And it’s all in a brief 30 minutes.
The genre-bending makes Mitski hard to pin down, and all to the better of it. There’s a fuzz-folky style on ‘My Body’s Made From Crushed Little Stars’, trendy snap-drums on ‘Thursday Girl’ and indie-rock on ‘Dan The Dancer’. It never sounds incoherent because Mitski’s at the centre of it all. It’s pop and it’s DIY, all at once. It’s heavy and it’s light, all at once. Maybe that’s the beauty of the internet and the breakdown of genre and trendiness. We have people like Grimes and Mitski taking advantage of all the sounds they can get their hands on, and why not? If they have access to it, why not make use of it whilst keeping the eccentricities of the individual to separate it from the rest of the pack? I like how Puberty 2 is all-encompassing; it sums up everything that’s important.
Funnel Recommends: Happy / Your Best American Girl / A Loving Feeling