During adolescence, the contradicting and painfully overbearing emotions of happiness and sadness appear more frequently, where they take turns oscillating between normality and unbearable, painful intensity. In most cases, we grow to understand these emotions to the point where we control them, and not the other way around. The area in between these two ideas is where the raw and honest music of Mitski Miyawaki finds both solace and frenzy. Puberty 2 – Mitski’s fourth and most impressive release to date – not only allows the emotions of sadness and happiness to coexist, but also highlights the way they find meaning within each other through eleven visceral, wonderfully genuine tracks.
In the lyrics for the short, stunning closer “A Burning Hill,” Mitski provides the listener with her own complex, internal struggle, as well as the thesis for the album, singing “I am a forest fire/ and I am the fire and I am the forest/ and I am a witness watching it.” It’s probably one of the most evocative descriptions of depression and insecurity that has ever been put into lyrical form, and its made even better considering the fact that it is presented atop a simple, haunting guitar melody. “Thursday Girl” has this same soft, haunting feeling, where her soft, elastic voice pleads for someone to take away all of the feelings she has been forced to face head on. There are moments of grunge, like the visceral, halfway mark “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” sandwiched between soft, ballads that swap out the rawness of passion with one more intimately evocative. The standout track “Fireworks” is perhaps the most representative of this, as Mitski simultaneously gives her most beautiful vocal performance while sharing the album’s most desolate, but somehow hopeful lyrics, singing that “one morning this sadness will fossilize/ and I will forget how to cry.”
Even though the album can be intimate and even uncomfortable to listen to at times, Mitski does try her best to make the album accessible to all, spending more time on crafting intelligent metaphors in order to highlight the emotion itself rather than her own personal relationship with it, even going as far as describing lovers as abstract concepts like “happy” and “silence.” She sings mostly of love as well as the absence of it, due to either the clash of cultures or just pure disappointment, seen in the albums two most stunning tracks “Happy” and “Your Best American Girl.” The latter begins soft and nurturing and ends in an eruption of energy, as the half-japanese artist struggles with her desire to become the pure, american version of herself in order to please a lover as well as the desire to remain true to her heritage, congratulating the way her mother raised her when his refuses to do so. Even though the track deals with the crippling feelings of rejection, it remains beautifully focused, which can also be said about “Happy,” ironically the most representative of the duplicitous nature of emotion. As mentioned before, “happy” is described as a man who comes over, has his fun, then leaves, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. The apathetic, pounding introduction and stoic instrumentals highlight the fact that she may be numb to this repeated occurrence, solidified with stoic trumpet blares like a deep epiphany.
Despite Mitski’s direct treatment of more sensitive ideas, Puberty 2 never really sounds morose. Instead, it remains incredibly self aware, and, though you have to search for it, there are even brief moments where happiness and sadness are able to exist in perfect harmony.
photo by Ebru Yildiz