After almost three years since her last album, Be The Cowboy, Mitski returned on February 4 with her sixth album Laurel Hell. Known for her powerfully vulnerable lyrics and songwriting, Mitski returns this time with feelings full of melancholic turmoil, starting her album with the lyrics “Let’s step carefully into the dark,” once again taking her audience on a journey through her world of personal explorations within her career.
First in Laurel Hell, the track “Valentine, Texas” holds a haunting tune at the beginning before plunging the listener into the chorus with a gentle and magical melody on the piano up until the end with lyrics to match. The song acts as a perfect introduction to what this album is all about; introspection, yearning, uncertainty and the sorrow and pressure of having to find oneself again as the years go by.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Mitski retells how returning to music for this album has been just as much learning about herself, her boundaries and how to forgive others and most importantly, herself. In a time where we all are relearning to navigate the world, the songwriter’s efforts prove not to be in vain, as Laurel Hell provides an exemplary array of songs to dance, cry and simply feel with.
“Working for the Knife”, which was previously released as a single, was critically acclaimed upon release. As the second track in Laurel Hell, it continues the theme in “Valentine, Texas”. Able to capture Mitski’s frustrations with rediscovering herself “as the world moves on,” through guitar riffs, an eerie synthesizer and electronic melodies, we feel the bittersweet conflict of creating something that is purely her while facing the reality of the modern industry.
Tracks like “Love Me More” and “Heat Lightning” on the other hand, harbor layers of Mitski’s longing to be accepted and find purpose in her music and through those that believe in her. Told in the highs of the former and lows of the latter, she searches for a reason to keep her in this moment as an artist, highlighting the struggles of being defined by her success to the point where without it, she doesn’t know who she is. Mitski gives up this part of her to the listener, describing hazy dreams that have weighed on her for the last couple of years and surrendering herself.
Laurel Hell shares a raw narrative of fluctuating emotions each of us can find ourselves relating to or finding meaning within the poetry of Mitski’s music. The sounds of each track contrast and complement each other perfectly, ranging from softer, mourning ballads to songs with a lively bass, each where Mitski is able to vocally tell her stories. As one of her most vague albums in terms of interpretation, the album feels like a goodbye as well as a reminder that she is still here, crying out to her audience to be found. Balanced and lyrically genius, Mitski doesn’t miss a beat once again with her sixth album, arranging her music like a captivating puzzle.
Mitski is set to perform Laurel Hell in Toronto, Massey Hall on March 18, 2022.