Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Written by: HES on 30/12/2016 18:41:40
So he laid me down and I felt Happy come inside of me — meet the Japanese-born, LA-residing, creative wunderkind known as Mitski. Mitski is an honest writer. “Happy” is the opener of her fourth full-length album, “Puberty 2”, a record about the perils of the “second puberty” 20-somethings find themselves in and, quite frankly, a masterpiece. “Puberty 2” harbours no respect for our conventional genre-constructs and by doing so challenges not just the rock landscape, but also what compositions ‘should’ sound like. Case in point: Opening track “Happy” sports an intro of drum machine and distorted a cappella singing, followed by a grungy alto saxophone intermezzo, again followed by a lazy Dandy Warhols-styled verse with classic, bright soul-styled guitar elements in the far back. From that description it doesn't sound like something that would comprise a very listenable experience - but here Mitski’s talent for writing melodies carries the ship safe to coast.
The album has an almost classical music convention take on songwriting, with the passages combined comprising a full bodied rock opus: all the bits and pieces systematically lead to the next, and the devotion to normal song constructions with verse/chorus/verse/chorus is somewhat scrapped to give a more holistic, yet very lively impression. The midway crescendo, “Your Best American Girl”, sarcastically mimics the grandness of pop-songs with a quiet verse and an ear-wrenchingly catchy, yet noisy chorus. The song is flat out one of the best songs released in 2016 - if not the best.
Mitski’s lethargic take on personal failures, with almost a song for each, juxtaposes perfectly with the aggression that she seems to hold against this lethargy. It makes for an extremely dynamic experience. A perfect example is the follow-up to “Your Best American Girl”, called “I Bet On Losing Dogs” - a slow ballad with angelic background choruses and lyrics about betting on dogs destined to lose in the races. The song channels everything from the atmosphere of Kate Bush over Lana Del Ray’s melancholy, yet always stays quintessentially Mitski. This track again followed-up with the fast, dirty and punk-inspired “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”, where Mitski wails. ”I wanna see the whole world, I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent, I want to see the whole world” and ”I work better under a deadliiiiine” - perfectly encapsulating the restlessness of this ‘second puberty’: having to live with a still young, wild heart, while also having gained a set of very grown-up responsibilities like rent, finding a man to marry and cleaning up after your fuck buddy when he leaves while you’re in the shower.
“Puberty 2” is a quilt of patches from everything I’ve loved since I started listening to music. For an example, “Thursday Girl” draws heavily upon ‘90s trip hop-influences, while the mind-numbing bass synths of “Crack Baby” takes from Massive Attack or Portishead’s odd mixture of electronic, yet grungy soundscapes. Vocally, Mitski’s wails and pitch changes perfectly encapsulate the folk-style singing of Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, but also somewhat the attitude of ’90s Riot Grrrls.
All in all, this doesn’t make for a very ‘listenable’ album. Don’t put on “Puberty 2” thinking it’s another female singer/songwriter album that will make for great dinner music or background noise. The melodic constructions challenge the way we normally see melodies written, the mixing challenges your mind to wander further into a forest of meticulously placed easter eggs, and while the mood of one track beckons calm, the next will wake you right up - it’s almost schizophrenic, it’s complicated and it’s absolutely beautiful. It will most certainly rub you all kinds of wrong ways, but if you’re patient, you’ll find that all the wrong ways are somehow right. That you shouldn’t stoop to ”marrying silence”: Agreeing to just one genre, limiting your honesty or being the girl everyone wants you to be. It may sound very banal - but having listened to quite a few albums, I’d say “Puberty 2” is one of the best, if not the only, real successful attempt at this I have ever seen. I am still hypnotized by its strange beauty after some 100 spins.
Download: Your Best American Girl, Happy, Crack Baby, Fireworks, Dan the Dancer
For the fans of: Feist, Lo-Fang, Bon Iver, Massive Attack
Release date 12.06.2016