Musician hopes to keep your attention with 'Puberty 2'
Some people pin inspirational posters to the walls of their cubicles for motivation. Mitski Miyawaki, who records and performs as Mitski, has taken a more modern approach, saving a few encouraging words to her smartphone for those times she needs artistic reassurance.
“I keep this quote by David Bowie on my phone, which is often what guides me and keeps me motivated to make art now that it's my job and my living depends on it, which makes risk-taking more frightening,” Mitski said via email. “He said, ‘If you feel safe in the area you're working in, you're not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting.'”
Over the course of four albums, Mitski, who headlines a show at Skully's Music-Diner on Wednesday, Oct. 4, has kept her toes hovering just above the sand, moving from the somber piano balladry of Lush, from 2012, through last year's Puberty 2, which bounces between spacious, reflective tracks and fuzzy, frank punk cuts like “My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars.” While the music has grown more wild and untamed, as a songwriter, Mitski has become more economical in her language, refining each line to infomercial-knife sharpness.
“You're the only one I ever wanted/I think I'll regret this,” she sings on “Your Best American Girl,” imagining a relationship as it plays out from initial longing through perceived disappointment in just a dozen words.
“I'm an introverted young Asian woman … and people won't respectfully stand around as I noodle on a guitar for 10 minutes. I developed my economical style because I need to be able to paint you the whole picture in the few seconds that I've accidentally gotten your attention,” Mitski said. “I need every word to count, because every word does count. You could walk away in disinterest at any moment, before I even finish a thought.”
As Mitski continues to evolve, so does her relationship with the material. Even just a year removed from its release, the songs on Puberty 2 have already started to take on new meanings, the musician gradually coming to understand some of the issues and emotions with which she was grappling at the time.
“The songs on Puberty 2 have become like childhood friends. I know them so well [that] they're a part of my fabric now,” Mitski said. “They're not new or exciting anymore, but I can see them in new, possibly more honest lights. Sometimes you finally understand what you meant by a song years after you've written it.”