“And I was so young when I behaved 25 / and now I’ve found I’ve grown into a tall child”
~ Mitski, Bury Me At Makeout Creek
E: Welcome back to Blogging Ain’t Dead where we’re reaching new heights of pretentiousness this week and starting with a quote. I’m Eamon.
R: I’m Roger. Strap the fuck in. This one’s a ride.
E: So before we start, it’s probably worth taking time out and saying that we’re just two dudebros with MacBooks, we’re not claiming the ability to access some greater insight into the lyrics here. Mitski’s identity is an important part of the her music, she’s made that clear pretty often in interviews. So if this white dude is misinterpreting the female Asian American experience somehow, my bad.
R: I am Black, but I echo this sentiment. Cis-gender, (mostly) straight male — see here for a fun take on an old scale — talking about Art (oh yeah, I’m giving this shit the capital “A” treatment) made by a young woman who’s had vastly different cultural upbringing and life experiences than myself. Let me go ahead and say that I’m only stating my reaction to the music and lyrics. So with that being said, let’s talk Puberty 2.
E: Mitski is a singer-songwriter that usually gets associated with the DIY scene that Bandcamp has been driving in the last few years. Brooklyn-based, she put out a few solid releases before her single “Townie” got that sweet, sweet blog buzz and has been moving up pretty rapidly ever since. If you’re on a liberal arts college campus, you’re going to see at least one kid in a “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” tee.
R: That’s secretly why I was so down to start this blog with you, Eamon. I don’t know anybody who can get me that sweet, sweet blog buzz. So I’ll just do it myself.
E: … well let’s not let that detract from the music. The quote that started us off (from the song “First Love / Late Spring” — fucking incredible on all accounts) was definitely one of the most memorable off Mitski’s last project, and I think that idea forms the backbone for Puberty 2. In this album, we see the narrator (I’m not going to be bold enough to assume that all the thoughts are necessarily Mitski’s) start to reach an age where the emotions and impulses that come with puberty begin to take on a new weight.
R: I hit a girl in the DM recently, in the hopes of getting what every male wants from the DM. Instead I went on a massive diatribe concerning the conceptual heft of this Puberty 2 album and why it is so important that a singular voice put out such a weighty collection filled with the personality — both in terms of sonic direction and lyrical prowess — of a seasoned warrior of music, of love, of life. She did not respond after that.
E: Roger never DMs me about seasoned warriors of music, love, and life.
R: The only man I DM consistently is Danny Cramer — aka LeBron Crames. Take that as you may.
E: We’re hoping that referencing Danny Cramer will improve our readership on the Upper West Side.
(credit: Nfusedev, reddit)
E: Anyways, back to Brooklyn:
The album starts off with an anecdote about a boy coming over for tea and cookies. Narrator begs boy to stay, boy and girl sleep together, girl wakes up the next morning to a room full of empty cookie wrappers that she has to clean up. Not the most uplifting of starts lyrically, but underneath the description of that encounter is a pounding drum machine and a fucking sax solo.
R: Hold up, bruh. You didn’t tell it right. This album doesn’t start with an anecdote. It starts with electro-synthetic drum kicks slamming into your eardrums repeatedly for four full seconds in what I can only assume is the most attention grabbing frequencies noticeable to the adult ear. Mitski begins by demanding your undivided attention with what may be the most ballsy opening to an album I’ve heard in at least a couple years. The very tone of these blistering, repeated kicks is like …. fuck it’s just oppressive. And then she opens her mouth in a voice so somber, so melancholy and DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FIRST FUCKING WORD SHE SAYS IS???
Happy came to visit. And he brought cookies.
E: … and then (according to the lyrics) came inside of her and left. Yeah. Fairly direct in its implications. But again, even though those lyrics are just a profoundly dismal in their implications about men, the music grabs you by the collar and propels you deeper into the narrative. There’s a great representation of the conflicted nature of sexuality from literally note one and word one of the album. And that sax solo fucking kicks ass, which is not a sentence I thought I’d get to write in 2016.
R: Or ever. Just Ever.
R: You’re right, I retract that statement. It’s just that the epic sax guy really fucked it up for me. Ugh. I can literally hear it in my head right now.
E: DEE. DEEDEEDEEDEE DEE.
R: I just rewatched the performance. You know what. That dude fucking slays. I didn’t realize he was a backup dancer for the whole song THEN hops on the sax. Shit.
E: Dude, you’re all over the place today. But anyway, Mitski’s solo is the dead opposite of that.
R: Right, so you have this sax solo end, feedback from the guitar still fresh in the mix and then we hear clapping. But not the kind of applause that you give a seasoned musician at the end of a heartwrenching performance. It’s more like the sparse claps you hear at the end of a person’s open mic night performance that went on five minutes too long in a room full of Michael Goves — obligatory, meager, confused.
The drum machine still needs to be turned off. The performance must finally end.
Also the music video for this is wild.
R: The next track “Dan the Dancer” begins with power chords backed up by what sounds like live drum crashes and a physical description of Dan. You know Dan, with the really long limbs.
E: This song doesn’t sound like a Pixies song, it could be a Pixies song. And a good one at that. This song is more a testament to the pacing of the album than anything: in order to give you some time to puzzle out the last track, Mitski just hits you with good old fashioned power-fifths and more amazing vocals.
R: But here’s the thing though. Lyrically she doesn’t miss a step. Just. Here. Here are the lyrics:
“So when he moved with you / And felt his body let go / Of course you couldn’t know / It was you and you alone / That he had shown his bedroom dancer to / He would never tell you that it was his first time.”
If the first song was about the depressing reality of casual sex, then this song is about the beauty of intimacy with and on purpose. Except from a male perspective, the perspective of Dan — an awkward gangly dude who finally finds someone to dance with.
E: Having been that gangly dude who has just found a girl willing to humor him and dance with him, shouts out Mitski for nailing the experience and putting it to song.
R: Told you that you know Dan. You know, with the long limbs.
E: Yeah, I do have me some long-ass limbs. Have you seen my fingers?
R: ……. yes, i have.
R: I love the internet. I love this blog.
E: Jesus. Urban outfitters T, cargo shorts. Sure is 2012 up in here. But moving on, the next track has the same themes: “Once More To See You.”
R: Nice subject change.
E: It’s got this big, chunky, meandering feel to it, like something you’d clumsily slow-dance to in the back of a high school gym. You know, in a fantasy world where Mitski is going to get played at high school dances.
R: Really just gonna blaze through that, huh? Fine. You know, I didn’t go to many high school dances. The only one I remember going to I was so blunted that the director of my school commented on it. I didn’t dance. I couldn’t dance. Don’t go to prom on couch lock. It is not a good look.
E: Sativa: It’s For Prom!
“Fireworks” then pivots back to a female perspective (which coincides with the drum machine coming back in. Not 100% that’s intentional, but Whoa If True).
R: This is probably my favorite track on the album. But that’s not saying much. This whole album is just uuuuggggghhhhh. When I first listened I was in my car on the way back from a job interview (which I didn’t get btw, lol unemployment, kill me). And I’m just flying down US Route 1 at eight or nine in the morning blasting an album that has already gotten my eyes ever so slightly damp. And this song comes on.
E: There’s no point in pretending you’re not going to cry to this album at least once. And no manly single-tears either, full throated “Jesus I haven’t felt like this since The West Wing went off the air” crying.
I realize that is not the most universal crying moment but you can’t escape your past.
R: I’m listening to this song while writing this particular portion of the review. And I can definitely say “I’m not crying. You’re crying.” That drum machine is back and it’s keeping time for you when you don’t have any friends to do it for you.
R: And other than that initial 4/4 tempo sync, helping Mitski as she puts down the guitar line for this track, there is no other percussion on this track whatsoever. It’s one big build. Maybe it’s because I have problems with expressing myself emotionally. Maybe it’s because I go “jogging routinely / calmly and rhytmically”, maybe because fireworks were going off outside and I didn’t go to see them or even want to. The explosions that I never witnessed, booming then showering, pretty only for a moment — maybe I just get this song too much is my point here. No drop. No catharsis. Just a build that dissipates into the lonely drum machine. Then white noise.
E: Followed by the polar opposite of white noise. Best American Girl is one of those songs that’s so good you almost want to not like it. I’ve wanted to write this off as arcade-fire-stadium-rock indie, or as something Mitski can lean on when she lands midway up the Coachella bill. But I can’t. This is the greatest. There’s layers and layers of delicate instrumentation that gets utterly run through by a distorted guitar when the chorus lands, but Mitski’s voice stays floating perfectly above all of that. It’s a feat, both on a production and composition level. And come on, “you’re all I ever wanted / I think I’ll regret this” ? Hey look, it’s the entire album summed up in one sentence again.
R: Dude if “Fireworks” is all build, then “Your Best American Girl” is all drop. And let’s not forget to mention the lyrics within the song’s chorus versus the coda. The whole song she repeats the line:
“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I think I do”
Then a fucking blistering guitar that would make Eddie Van Halen’s nuts shrivel, followed by a transition — a declaration:
“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me / But I do, I finally do”
E: Just as First Love // Late Spring did on her last project, the combination of a punch-through-the-walls guitar and Mitski’s potent lyrics just gets the job done for me on so many levels.
R: Just. Ugh.
E: We’re gonna break here because we’re not gonna pretend that anyone wants to read this much of us. But we’re not done. Oh, we’re not done.
R: Until we finish this, make sure to check out the (almost) weekly track review. Last Wednesday it was “I Got The Keys” by DJ Khaled …. well sort of.
next review? suggestions? inbox us. or don’t. whatever.
Originally published at bloggingaintdead.tumblr.com.