Mitski played the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday, July 22, as the last stop of her summer tour. Taking the stage after Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som, Mitski played a short set that consisted mostly of favorites from Bury Me At Makeout Creek, her sophomore album. Mitski opened with “Townie”, then “First Love/Late Spring”. The mostly-female audience surrounding me at the Music Hall knew these songs by heart, and Mitski was confident in this. I’d seen her during her spring 2014 tour stop at the Bowery Ballroom and was really pleased to see that little of her onstage persona had changed. She’d sold out many of this tour’s shows and received overwhelmingly positive reviews for Puberty 2, which Rolling Stone called “an incendiary self-portrait.”
Puberty 2 is a logical next step to the Bury Me At Makeout Creek, an album that draws its title from The Simpsons’ anti-hero Milhouse. Makeout Creek conjures all that is unbearable and inexpressible about suburban adolescence. “Townie”’s descriptions “wet grass and smoke in my hair” contrasted with a yearning for something more than seems possible at any given moment. In “First Love/Late Spring” the adolescent desire to transcend, to grow up too soon, is remembered through the eyes of a woman who is now old enough to be independent but still doesn’t have it all figured out: “Lately I’ve been crying like a tall child.”
In Puberty 2, Mitski’s lyrics have matured; nostalgia is supplemented by a series of controlled glints of anger directed somewhere bigger. In “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” which Mitski performed at the Music Hall, the lyrics “I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent” echo Makeout Creek‘s “Jobless Monday”. I felt them in the pit of my stomach and in the weight of my wallet, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Mitski didn’t play the entirety of Puberty 2, but played the noted track from the album “Your Best American Girl“ with both grace and anger. I’ve noticed that Mitski’s songs tend to stray away, lyrically speaking, from absolutes. Hence the ending lines of the chorus: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me but I do / I think I do.” This sort of emotional wavering is characteristic of Mitski’s self-conscious lyricism, but her delivery is always loud, clear, strong: she thinks she does, and she does, she definitely does.