A singer and songwriter known for both candid lyrics and a catchy yet volatile version of indie rock, Mitski is short for Mitski Miyawaki. A onetime music major, her first two records were school projects in 2012 and 2013. Her label debut, the more emotionally charged Bury Me at Makeout Creek, saw her picking up a guitar for the first time in 2014. Mitski’s itinerant childhood and themes of identity and belonging factored into that album and songs such as “Your Best American Girl,” a streaming hit from her 2016 LP, Puberty 2. The latter marked her Top 20 debuts on Billboard’s independent and alternative charts.
Born in Japan to an American father and Japanese mother, Miyawaki grew up moving between no fewer than 13 countries on multiple continents before eventually settling in New York City for college. She had just begun writing songs soon after getting her high-school diploma in Turkey (her earliest completed song, “Bag of Bones,” appeared on her first album). After enrolling at New York’s Hunter College to study film, she decided to pursue music instead and transferred to SUNY Purchase. It was there that Mitski made her first two records, 2012’s piano-based LUSH and 2013’s Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, her junior and senior school projects. The second album was an ambitious one that made use of a 60-piece student orchestra. The projects, combined with completing her degree while working outside jobs, left Mitski exhausted, a state that heavily influenced her third record, Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Unlike her previous albums, it was recorded mostly in makeshift home studios with friends. It also represented a move away from her classical piano background, exchanging it for raw, impulsive guitar. Bury Me at Makeout Creek arrived via Double Double Whammy in 2014.
In late 2015, Mitski signed with the independent label Dead Oceans, which released Puberty 2 in June 2016. Featuring the streaming hit “Your Best American Girl,” the album was supported by a North American and European tour that kicked off at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Puberty 2 went on to receive widespread critical acclaim, placing in the Top 25 of year-end lists by publications such as Rolling Stone, SPIN, and Entertainment Weekly. It also found commercial success, landing on Billboard’s alternative, rock, independent, and Heatseekers albums charts. She followed it in 2018 with Be the Cowboy, her third straight album with producer Patrick Hyland. ~ Marcy Donelson