Mitski Miyawaki (Mitski)
If you only listen to one song and watch one music video today, make it “Your American Girl” by Mitski (2016, from the forthcoming album Puberty 2
Mitski is an indie rock/indie folk singer/songwriter from Brooklyn. She has released three albums, including the remarkable 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. She has a stunning new album called Puberty 2 coming out on June 17, and it’s my guess that she’ll instantly go from being just under the radar to being a proper indie queen with this record. I’ve said before that Mitski reminds me of Torres, and I still say that. But with this album, there’s a bit of St. Vincent flavor. It’s indie as hell, but it also has some mainstream accessibility. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
She played at last year’s Hopscotch festival, and I featured her song “Drunk Walk Home” last May, ahead of the festival. She played on the middle night of the festival at Tir Na Nog, and I was unfortunately shut out of the show. I was really disappointed to have missed that, but I’ll have my chance to see her in Durham when she plays in support of the new album next month.
25 year-old Mitski Miyawaki was born in Japan, and has lived in the Congo, Malaysia, China, Turkey, and the United States. She’s “Japanese-American”, but identifies neither as fully Japanese nor fully American. That’s what this song is about, and that’s especially what today’s song is about. It’s about wanting to fit in, but not fitting in. It’s about being frustrated with that. It’s about feeling inferior.
“Your Best American Girl
I love the quiet/loud/quiet thing, and I’m especially fond of the fact that the chorus gets louder the second time through.
The first verse:
If I could, I’d be your little spoon
And kiss your fingers forevermore
But, big spoon, you have so much to do
And I have nothing ahead of me
You’re the sun, you’ve never seen the night
But you hear its song from the morning birds
But I’m not the moon, I’m not even a star
But awake at night I’ll be singing to the birds
“I have nothing ahead of me”. That’s a pretty bleak look. And she compares herself as something very little in comparison to the very big object of her affection.
This is, for the record, autobiographical. In this interview with NPR’s Bob Boilen, she says:
I don’t think I have the kind of creativity to write fiction… (T)his song is quite autobiographical because I didn’t grow up in the U.S. I am half Japanese, and it came from wanting to just fit into this very American person’s life and simply not being able to. Just fundamentally being from a different place and feeling like I would just get in the way of their progression if their life, because I could just never get to wherever they’re naturally going.
Here’s the main chorus:
Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me
But I do, I think I do
And you’re an All-American boy
I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl
In the last chorus, she changes it from “your best American girl” to “THE best American girl”. I suppose that’s to say that she’s tired of trying to impress that one guy, but she’s still struggling with trying to be an “American” girl.
Also, in the last chorus, in that line about approving of the way her mother raised her, it changes to “I do, I finally do” and then back to “I do, I think I do”. So it’s possible that she’s constantly questioning her own approval of the way her mother raised her.
You can pre-order a physical copy of the fantastic new album via the Dead Oceans site here, and you can pre-order the digital download via Bandcamp here.
And here’s the video, which makes me a little uncomfortable. But it’s amazing anyway:
It goes in a direction that I wasn’t really expecting. She and the guy awkwardly glance in each other’s direction and wave in each other’s direction. He starts making out with some white girl, and she starts making out with her hand. It’s weird, and I think the director wants the viewer to feel like a creep. I certainly do.
Anyway, what I really like about the video is what happens in the second chorus. As the fella and the other girl continue to make out in increasingly explicit ways, Mitski gets a mischievous grin on her face, the camera pans out, and she got her guitar slung over her shoulder. It’s fantastic.
I got my ears on the whole album a little early, and I really, really like it. I probably listened to it three times in a row yesterday.
Buy the album. Buy a ticket to her show when she plays in your town.