Recommend if you like: Pure, unbridled angst.

Expectation: Mitski is an indie rock singer-songwriter known for her 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. She is well known for her lyrics, which frequently focus on love, social alienation, and depression.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • Happy – An eclectic track that plays with one idea after another before getting its act together for a nice, tidy chorus. Easily the best song on the album.
  • Dan the Dancer – An almost-anthem full of layered, crunching guitars, but hopelessly dull contributions from the rhythm section hamstring the entire song.
  • Once More To See You – A nice melody, but a very one-dimensional song.
  • Fireworks – The acoustic guitars are a always a welcome change of pace, but the real beauty of the song is in the backing track. Muddled, overlapping synth strings rise and fall in the background, and the song’s climax is appropriately accented with regal sounding chimes and a blaring, distorted bass tone.
  • Your Best American Girl – Almost so good. The story is simple but touching, conveyed in straightforward lyrics with a good melody, but the mixing is just atrocious. No matter how loud you turn up the volume, it still feels like you can’t really hear it.
  • I Bet On Losing Dogs – A really nice song, though somewhat plain.
  • My Body’s Made Of Crushed Little Stars – Feedback and dissonance are interesting ideas when tastefully explored, but here they sound like straight garbage. One of the only songs I’ve ever heard that I would actually describe as physically painful to listen to.
  • Thursday Girl – Another song that could easily be very good if there were just something more to it. Its as if Mitski was struck with inspiration, recorded everything that just came to her, then didn’t bother to pursue the idea any further.
  • A Loving Feeling – A pretty standard rock song, but noteworthy for providing an example of tasteful feedback, instead of the sadistic screeching noises used previously.
  • Crack Baby – The synthetic drums are a change of pace, but not a particularly interesting one. Mitski delivers another interesting idea lyrically, but again neglects to explore it with any depth.
  • A Burning Hill – A nice closer. Simple, but concise.

Overall: Mitski shows real potential as a songwriter, but has a long way to go as a musician. What little lyrics she provides for each song are concise but effective, proving she has a lot to say, but she is no poet. Her messages are clearly stated almost immediately, necessitating filling her songs with repetition to stretch them out. Nevertheless, Puberty 2 is, lyrically speaking, one of the best rock albums of the year. Unfortunately, the musical performances here are lackluster at best; the simple, straightforward moments like “Dan the Dancer” have no punch to them, while the more ambitious songs like “Your Best American Girl” suffer from terrible mixing. Furthermore, the core instruments used fail to present a single interesting instrumental idea on anywhere on the project; the guitars are either basic picking patterns or straight bar chords, the bass stays firmly tied to the root note, and the drums are thoroughly boring at every turn. All of this is made worse by the mixing, which ranges from rough to horrendous, but at least some tracks somewhat fit with a “lo-fi” vibe. Overall, Mitski is a very talented songwriter desperately in need of a good backing band and a producer who will force her to write full songs instead of song fragments to stretch out.

Score: 6/10

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