500 words on Why Mitski’s Puberty 2 is my favorite Album of 2016
I’m an easy person to please. I like my rock n’ roll sad and about love. The more times someone sings “cry” the better. I have the album cover of Sea Change on my bedroom wall for crying out loud.
So, it should be of no surprise that I am taken with Mitski’s fourth album Puberty 2. A triumph of both lyrically tenderness and lo-fi intensity, Puberty 2 has overtaken Kanye West’s ever-evolving The Life of Pablo as my favorite album of the year.1 Considering that whenever a Kanye album drops it almost always tops my end of the year list, this is a big deal to me. Puberty 2’s strength is that upon first listen, you are okay with having it speak for your current experience.
Much like Frankie Cosmos’ breakthrough 17-minute masterpiece, Zentropy, it articulates feelings that this current age group had never claimed ownership to in music. We no longer have to rely on The Cure or The Killers to speak for our generation when we have contemporaries vocalizing our versions of lost love and mental health.
Mitski and her producer, Patrick Hyland, played me like a harp from the get-go. They knew that I have to automatically love a song called “Fireworks” and they knew that I was in serious need for summer indie anthems when they put “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” and “A Loving Feeling” on the album.
And then there is the album’s lead single “Your Best American Girl” a song that once I heard it, I knew it would be my song of the year. Not since my reevaluation of The Magnetic Fields’ “Grand Canyon”2 has a song deeply resonated with me. Mitski, who was born in Japan, bounced from country to country leaving her, as she puts it, “half Japanese, half American, but not fully either.” As a person of color who is dating a white woman, identifying with the song was second nature. Every lyric in that song is like a dagger in my heart. Especially a lyric like “you’re all I ever wanted, I think I’ll regret this” which cuts right to the chase. What do you do with someone who will never understand you but you love so much? It’s a question people like Mitski and myself, who have fallen for people outside our marginalized cultures, have to address often. Besides the personal meaning I have given to the track, it really just fucking rocks. The guitars before the second chorus of “Your Best American Girl” will make you start the song over just so you can experience that rush again.
Puberty 2 doesn’t have as much scope as some of the other lauded releases of the year, but the album perfectly executes its mission. I’ve admitted that I am easy to please, so I would have settled for much less from Mitski, but shit dude, I was not expecting something on the level of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Puberty 2 a certified slapper and will be on repeat all summer. A must-listen.