Review Summary: i better ace this review / i should tell them that i'm not afraid to die / i better ace this review
Confession: when I first listened to this album, I spent more time than I care to admit looking for its prequel; for an album title affixed with the number 2 must have its roots planted firmly in another body of music. The slow-rising existentialism of Puberty 2
proves otherwise, though – it’s title refers to the doubt and inner turmoil that arises from feeling like you’re suffering through another period of fumbling adolescence.
For all its buzzing, sneering self-flagellation, Puberty 2
barrels head-first into contemporary rock’s inner circle. It’s an album both earthy and graceful, performing its own ballet routine in the dirt and the mud. Take Thursday Girl
as an example – the song finds Mitski slowly pirouetting as the setting cracks and splutters behind her. Here, the track details the most awkward and broken of relationships, beautifully ambiguous in the respect that it is never clear whether the relationship is with herself or with another. Elsewhere, the personification of Happy
as an abusive one-night-stand is as contrarian as it is delineating. “When you go, take this heart”
– defeatist as it may seem – perfectly distils the grim irony of draining yourself in the quest for contentment. Sacrificing happiness in the search for happiness shouldn’t make any sense, but it does.
Of the music: Puberty 2
feels like Mitski’s valiant attempt to project and to share her burdens. The record is replete with gritty, linear chord progressions that bask in the sun; like on Fireworks
, where the guitar forms the skeleton for the floor-shaking bass and Mitski’s velvety crooning. In My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars
, the guitar conceives its own obstinate wall of white noise. Consequently, it becomes immediately and abundantly clear that this track is all of Mitski’s anxieties coming together for a rabid, utterly impassioned assault on her life; the breaking point captured on tape. In the most fitting of counterpoints, though, A Burning Hill
is both the depression and the submission. There’s a thick blanket of gloom in the form of tired synths and acoustic guitar that fits perfectly along the equally-as-exhausted lyric: “I think I’m finally worn”
I may be hearing things, but I’m fairly certain the faint blip of a click track carries this song to its end. If that’s the case, I find it heartbreakingly emblematic of the struggle to keep everything together, which is an appropriate and affecting microcosm of this record as a whole.
Musicians are the best at turning themselves inside out and the worst at giving their shattered selves a reprieve. They stay with their losses - such is the nature of the art - and stick them into some kind of paper mache formation for the sake of everyone that chooses to pay attention. Through this record, Mitski wants desperately to say goodbye to the neurosis that should’ve disappeared with puberty, and I sincerely hope that the rubble and the racket that this album makes can scare it off. It's about time we root for the losing dog.