By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor
Perhaps the most apt description of Mitski’s latest album, “Puberty 2,” came from The Line of Best Fit’s Jessica Goodman. “Validating every topsy turvy emotion, [the album] is a soundtrack of self-awareness and self-acceptance at its most real.” Other writers describe it as “celebrating the cliches of high school while observing them from a distance” (on The Guardian) and “akin to a vast, brutally lonely desert” (on Consequence of Sound).
Mitski herself made a fantastically important statement about the work when she wrote in a Facebook post responding to comments about her single “Your Best American Girl” on May 28 that “in the musical composition I used tropes from “white indie rock” of my adolescence… [but] I used those tropes to accentuate the point that I could use [the white indie rock scene’s] methods and act like I was of their world, but I would never ever fit.” The sentiment could be applied for the entirety of the album – it uses the figures and ideas of high school, perhaps, and of the burgeoning white indie rock scene, definitely, to create an exploration within those ideas. It reads like a study of the nuance of the feelings so often attributed to puberty and felt long beyond the years of drama amongst teenagers.
After a childhood of living in as many as 13 countries by the time she was teen-aged and failing, once she situated herself in the United States, to find a sense of home and belonging even there, Mitski undoubtedly grew accustomed to the bittersweet and troubling depth of not belonging. The feeling, to be sure, creates individuals by necessity. The lovely thing about music, though, is how it creates communities of individuals. With honest lyrics about her own pain – see “Your Best American Girl” for a love not-to-be and “Thursday Girl” for a frightening inability to control one’s self – structured within open, simple instrumental arrangements, she creates a place to sing her own feelings while leaving space for others to project their own. (Whether this was intentional is debatably not important.)
The feelings are expressed in suggestively simple phrases, replete with repeated phrases and breaks for instrumental melodies that lend depth even as they condense the texture of the songs. It comes off as the beauty and personality of a Tumblr aesthetic blog: full of beautiful photos of dried roses and minimalistic images of boxy sweaters and thin, dark lines of eyeliner on almost-vacant faces. Just as images on Tumblr are re-blogged by thousands, “Puberty 2” will be downloaded, sung along to, cried along to, and played during afternoons where one stares out the window without thinking about anything in particular until they notice the silence that fills the room as the album ends.
No matter how much critical acclaim it receives, “Puberty 2” will always be an under-appreciated example of feelings quite particular to one person that are somehow shared and understood by thousands. Its sadness, and its acceptance of that sadness, is practically revolutionary: it is sad without lamenting. It hurts without a cry of pain. It is a moan of acceptance. It is none of these things. It is Mitski’s, and it is ours.