Regardless of how emotionally bruising singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki's music can sometimes be, she isn't without a sense of humor. Her 2014 breakout album Bury Me at Makeout Creek referenced a classic Simpsons quote, the title of her fourth album Puberty 2 could just as easily be the title of a coming-of-age comedy. The comparison is fitting in that it references the awkward transitional phase of youth that often comes with a whole new set of rules, boundaries, and challenges to navigate through. Mitski has said of the album that it's "kind of a two parter" that picks up where its predecessor left off, and it finds her moving past simply being angry or depressed and into more complex emotional spaces.

Self-doubt and anxiety, heartbreak and sadness, fear and even vulnerability are all touched on here. What makes everything work is how she balances her sly dark humor with sharp and sometimes painfully biting insight. On the especially bleak 'Happy,' she explores the risks and consequences of pursuing happiness through someone else. "Well I told him I'd do anything to have him stay with me/So he laid me down and I felt happy come inside of me." The innuendo is enough to either make you wince a little or nervously laugh (or both) all depending on how you take it. And, just a few lines down, he makes a break for it while she's cleaning up in the bathroom, leaving her behind to deal with the mess. "Well I sighed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean."

'Fireworks' sees her taking a stoic approach to heartache, "One morning this sadness will fossilize and I will forget how to cry/I’ll keep going to work and you won’t see a change save perhaps a slight gray in my eye/I will go jogging routinely calmly and rhythmically run." 'Your Best American Girl ' meanwhile examines the struggle for someone of mixed heritage to find acceptance, using tropes of white-boy indie rock as a metaphor for not being able to fit into someone else's world, "And you're an All-American boy/I guess I couldn't help trying to be your best American girl/You're the one/You're all I ever wanted/I think I'll regret this" goes some of the particularly painfully honest lines here.

"Maturity" for an artist can sometimes mean mediocrity, a dulling down of the more exciting elements of their craft in favor of over-calculated refinement. For Mitski, the musical and lyrical maturity found here is anything but dull. If anything, it reflects the growing confidence not only in terms of her songwriting and musicianship, but also her singing, which ranges from deceptively sweet and even exposed, to assured and defiant regardless of how many times she's left broken down. Recorded solely with her producer Patrick Hyland, the sound is noticeably cleaner and that's likely going to disappoint, if not throw off, those who favored the homespun roughness of Bury Me.

But she doesn't smooth over any of the edges so much as she uses the clarity to sharpen them further. This is exemplified most on 'Your Best American Girl,' which builds quietly from a relatively reserved low-key backing into an outright heart bursting cathartic explosion of piled on distorted guitars, little ripples of organs, and the muted explosion of drums, all of which instantly recalls the sweeping moments of the best Pixies and Pumpkins albums. 'Happy' is bookended by an anxious drum machine and humming organs and fleshed out with a blurting saxophone, a tumbling beat and silvery guitars. It's sometimes easy to forget that Mitski didn't technically enter the greater music consciousness until last year, and what makes that worth pointing out is that despite her hitting her stride and turning out the most accomplished album of her career yet, she sounds like she's only getting started.