Following the breakout success of 2014’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek, 25-year-old Mitski Miyawaki takes a walk on the weird side in her fourth LP. Assisted by producer and instrumentalist Patrick Hyland, she shrugs off indie rock convention from the onset; “Happy” opens the album with braying saxophones, beats craftily fashioned from CD skips and lyrics about a happiness that takes the form of a slovenly lover – or in the music video, a duplicitous one. (“Happiness fucks you,” Miyawaki wrote of the song, “It’s possible to spend periods of happiness just waiting for [sadness].”)
Calling upon her experience as a Japanese-American woman, Miyawaki reels the rock back in her binational anthem, “Your Best American Girl.” Just as she makes peace with her mixed identity, the hyphen represents a valley of cultural difference that only grows between her and an all-American lover. “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me” she sings resolutely, “But I do, I finally do.”
However, all too wary of the pitfalls of total sincerity, Miyawaki returns to her usual wry malaise – fired playfully at a fair-weather friend-with-benefits in “A Loving Feeling,” and full-on blazing in the steely punk track, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” in which you can almost feel her fingers chafing bloody against her guitar as she gasps, “I wanna see the whole world, I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent, I wanna see the whole world!” Elsewhere, she retreats inward with ghostly, glitchy tracks like “Thursday Girl” and “Crack Baby,” meandering listlessly across the same gothic cityscape as Portishead’s Dummy. As bawdy and unpredictable as anyone is in their first puberty, Puberty 2 shows Miyawaki indulging her whims with a devil-may-care attitude – the result is an incendiary self-portrait.