All wrapped up in a blanket scarf and with her shoulders hunched to fend off London’s April chill, Mitski Miyawaki is tired. It seems a perennial problem for the 25-year-old, who regularly tweets in the middle of the night lamenting her brain’s nocturnal alertness when all around her the population slumbers and snores. While I boast, a little insensitively, of my own regular 8-hour appointments with the Sandman, she describes a cycle that typically involves a short-lived fit of sleep around midnight followed by a rhythm of tosses, turns and half-dozes before settling into a few snatched hours as the morning comes around and the rest of the world gets ready for the day ahead. At one point, she says, it was even more of a struggle. “When it was three hours, I was waiting tables all day – for twelve hours – and then I would do whatever music thing I could fit in after that.”
It’s a wonder, then, that she gets anything done. For she certainly gets things done. Her fourth album in five years, ‘Puberty 2’, is by far the most ambitious project to date for the artist known simply by her given name. Though the song writing on the first three LPs was of a consistently high standard, it always felt like Miyawaki was constrained, and while 2012’s ‘Lush’ and its follow-up, 2013’s wonderfully named ‘Retired from Sad, New Career in Business’, hinted at sounds fashioned out of raw materials beyond the indie rock, with their pianos and strings you sensed that there was more to come, a wider palette to be experimented with. And this time she has mined a new quarry altogether. It’s all the more impressive for her serial lack of rest, though she says she’s just become clever about how she uses her dwindling pool of reserves. “I have no energy, it’s just that I’m very good at rationing it. I have no social life, I don’t have fun – ever – it’s just all work.”
The production, crucially, has slid up a gear. Under the watchful eye of trusted long-time collaborator Patrick Hyland, ‘Puberty 2’ boldly breaks out of prescribed structures through skilful, confident sleights of hand that just wouldn’t be possible with solely acoustic instrumentation. From the first machine gun synthesised drum stabs of opener, ‘Happy’, you know you’re in for a more interesting – if a little bumpier – ride this time around.