Based in Brooklyn but with an unsettled background that called over a dozen countries on multiple continents home before she reached her twenties, Mitski Miyawaki makes her Dead Oceans debut with her fourth album, Puberty 2. Her background is not irrelevant here, as the album reflects her own, very personal -- and intentional or not, her generation's -- crisis of belonging as she recounts stories of navigating young adulthood in the City. A visceral work that shares the immediacy of classic punk and confessional singer/songwriter fare at once, Puberty 2 takes listeners behind closed doors with the kind of no-holds-barred lyrics that are likely to leave a lasting impression. The opener "Happy" is full of bite and irony as she describes a hook-up and his stealthy exit in a context of grooving rhythms, a catchy melody, and poppy saxophone solos. Through it all in the background -- though it's brought to the fore in the intro and outro -- is the relentless pounding of a drum. Understated guitar and synths mark the infectious "Fireworks," which has Mitski predict, almost deadpan, "One morning this sadness will fossilize/And I will forget how to cry." As the song builds momentum, many listeners will catch themselves bobbing heads in time despite its despondent lyrics. The fuzzier "Your Best American Girl" plays more like a power ballad as the singer, whose mother's side of the family is Japanese, laments the end of a relationship with an "All-American boy." The break-up is at least partly due to the predicted disapproval of his mother. A two-minute punk anthem for the nation's youth and beyond, "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars" frets "I wanna see the whole world/I don't know how I'm gonna pay rent." Here her voice lets loose, shouting and gasping, in sharp contrast to the deliberate self-control of some of the other tracks. Fearless and affecting from beginning to end, Puberty 2, while certainly individualistic, has the potential for far-reaching relatability.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson