Album Review: Mitski - 'Laurel Hell'

Since her first, self released album 'Lush', Mitski has built a huge following and cult status amongst music fans. Mitski is perhaps most known for her electronic, often experimental sound , along with her talent for pairing human lyrics with near-inhuman melodies. She's experienced both success and critical acclaim across her career, but most recently with 2018's 'Be The Cowboy', pitchfork's album of the year. This Friday brought the release of 'Laurel Hell', the sixth studio album by the American singer songwriter. The Mic's Christi Smith shares her experience with the record.


“Let’s step carefully into the dark” are the words that open Laurel Hell on the track Valentine, Texas. By stepping into Mitski's dark labyrinth, you will find blind alleys of heartache and crumbling walls of emotion set to 80s synth, but you won’t want to escape.


"Mitski gleefully disguises heartbreak in her pretty melodies and fluttering bridges."

Rattling of bolts come to mind whilst listening to the second track on the album, Working for the knife - the beats evoke the prison enclosing those caught in the exploitative system that feeds on our society. The versus here are punctuated by musical sirens that howl of a fractured community, the lyrics explaining the expectations of her younger self and how they have died by the “knife” of capitalism. As well as a being part of a directionless society, the sense of personal disorientation also runs through the song I guess. Mitski's account of losing a love that she knew before she even knew herself is monumental, but she's letting it slip away without holding on very tightly. Her solemn, sweet vocals become muted when she closes the track with the words “From here I can tell you, thank you” in dispassionate acceptance.





In contrast, on There’s nothing left here for you, Mitski explores a different perspective of a breakup, actively telling a lover to leave. (in a characteristic ambiguous and poetic way of course) Mitski would rather bring her relationship to an end now than wake up one morning and realise that the relationship had flatlined. The upbeat rhythm and lively percussion on final track, That's Our Lamp, seem like they could underscore an optimistic ode to love, but the lyrics reveal the unravelling seams “you just don’t like me, not like you used to”. Mitski gleefully disguises heartbreak in her pretty melodies and fluttering bridges.


"It's a skill Mitski consistently excels at throughout her music - finding a way to make the often-addressed unrequited love narrative feel like a new experience."

Rather, Stay soft is the song that hints of receptivity and potential belonging, she sings “open your heart” but adds, “like the gates of hell” humorously acknowledging the inevitable pain waiting ahead. Shining amongst this collection of beautiful melancholic fragments of Mitski’s imagination and creativity is the standout the single Love me more. The plucking of the strings and the heavy keys that layer this track reflect the feverish thoughts of unfulfilled passion. It's a skill Mitski consistently excels at throughout her music - finding a way to make the often-addressed unrequited love narrative feel like a new experience. Following this exceptional release, Mitski will be supporting Harry Styles this summer with her transcendent indie-pop compositions and style.



Christi Smith

 

Edited by: Elliot Fox


In article images courtesy of Mitski via Facebook. Video Courtesy of Mitski via YouTube.