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Mitski has brought us to ‘Laurel Hell’

Mitski is back with "Laurel Hell" after a two year break.
Mitski is back with "Laurel Hell" after a two year break.

Two years ago, Mitski left her fans in shambles when she revealed that she was taking a hiatus.

The indie-rock singer disappeared from social media and announced her ‘indefinite’ last show in September of 2019. Since then, Mitski’s music has risen in popularity, especially on social media platforms such as TikTok.

Fans wouldn’t hear from Mitski until October 2021 when her management team reactivated her social media to promote a new single.

Shortly after this, Mitski announced that she would release an album and go on tour. At this point, Mitski’s fan base had grown enormously. The album, her first in almost four years, immediately gained anticipation.

On Feb. 4, Mitski released “Laurel Hell,” and it’s completely different from anything she has done before.

To say I am hooked is an understatement.

The album has an ’80s-esque synth pop sound with dashes of electronic rock. While it is more upbeat than “Puberty 2” or “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business,” “Laurel Hell” might just be Mitski’s most honest, emotional work.

“Laurel Hell” serves as a confession following Mitski’s hiatus. She sings of her dismay for being a musician; she expresses her conflicted feelings about being a celebrity and her relationship with fans.

The opening track,  “Valentine, Texas,” begins in seemingly typical Mitski fashion: soft and slow-paced before erupting into a gorgeous array of instrumentals. It serves as a perfect opener for the album.

Written at the beginning of her hiatus and released as the lead single for “Laurel Hell,” “Working for the Knife” truly captures Mitski’s disdain for making music. She reveals, “I used to think I’d be done by twenty/ Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same/ Though maybe at thirty, I’ll see a way to change/ That I’m living for the knife.”

Perhaps the most notable elements of “Laurel Hell” are the amount of up-tempo, synth-poppy songs: “Stay Soft,” “The Only Heartbreaker,” and “Love Me More.”

My favorite from the line-up of synth pop songs (and out of the entire album) is “Should’ve Been Me.” With a playful beat and striking piano chords, it totally reminds me of The Cure’s 1983 hit “The Lovecats.”

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Some fans criticized the album online, saying the songs weren’t sad enough. If you know anything about Mitski, you will know that sadness has become her trademark, which is why so many have come to enjoy her music.

Basically, fans wanted another album to cry to.

Frankly, I do not think this particular group of people was listening close enough, as the lyrics in the previously listed songs are rather gloomy, especially given the context of “Laurel Hell.”

Not all hope is lost for the criers, though. “Heat Lightning,” the third single to be released from the album, is the perfect somber ballad for those in search of a traditionally emotional Mitski tune.

There are other low-tempo songs scattered throughout the album, including “Everyone,” “There’s Nothing Left for You” and “I Guess.”

On “I Guess,” she reflects on her musical career, singing, “If I could keep anything of you/ I would keep just this quiet after you/ It’s still as a pond I am staring into/ From here, I can say, ‘Thank you.’”

Mitski closes the album with “That’s Our Lamp,” a melancholic song that reminisces on a past relationship– perhaps her relationship with fans or music– but its lyrics are concealed by a funky, electro pop beat.

“Laurel Hell” is certainly no “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” or “Be The Cowboy,” but to me it’s the rawest of Mitski’s work. It is the revelation of a woman who has been struggling with her career for years. She put her heart into this record.

Not to mention Mitski was contemplating quitting music altogether, which would have left us without an album. This may even be the last record we get from Mitski.

Honestly, I would be okay if this was her last work. It would suffice as a proper goodbye. After giving us six remarkable albums and several music videos, she deserves to take time for herself and enjoy life.

Mitski has always written music for herself because it is what she loves to do; that is what I love about her. She has always stayed true to herself and her passion, and if she no longer wants to be in an industry that is making her unhappy, I completely respect that decision.

I’m just happy that she ever shared her passion with us. 

With that said, I think I’ll be spending a lot of my time in “Laurel Hell.”

Rating: 9/10

southacr@miamioh.edu

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