Mitski: ‘Laurel Hell’ Review
Drew’s Ranking: 3/5
With Laurel Hell, Mitski makes an electrifying return to the indie music scene. Defined by bold synths and claustrophobic melodies, slow burners and rapid bolts of 80s-inspired pop is the makeup of this record. Mitski’s sixth album is a remarkable songwriting statement of her career.
Introducing Laurel Hell
“Let’s step carefully into the dark,” Mitski sings in the first several seconds of her new album, “Valentine, Texas”. Listeners learn quickly that shying away from the darkness is not an option. It is the most appropriate reintroduction for an artist that went on hiatus after 2018’s incredibly momentous Be The Cowboy. As the track slowly builds, a burst of energy and noise rushes in. The ethereal sounds are a warm invitation to an 80s pop-inspired experience.
Stay Soft, Get Beaten
Laurel Hell reaches its most dramatic moments where you would least expect them. The chorus of “Stay Soft” is one great example. Following a slow-burn indie rock song like “Working For The Knife”, the track starts empty and barren. As the chorus nears, however, “Stay Soft” reaches heights that celebrate the best parts of Mitski’s songwriting ability. Whether the lyrics are in the forefront (“Everyone”) or the listener can hardly hear them over thunderous instrumental choices, (“Should’ve Been Me”), Mitski exposes her wide range of versatility. The record stays purely ’80s inspired, however, showing the remarkable balance and control the artist has over her sound.
The Only Heartbreaker
Following several synth-pop slow jams, (“Everyone”, “Heat Lightning”) “The Only Heartbreaker” arrives. The drums kick in and immediately signal a change in pace. “If you would just make, one mistake…” Mitski sings. And while this phenomenal song hits harder than anything here, it is the only flaw of Laurel Hell. Nothing compares to the saxophone-filled bridge and monstrous build to the final chorus of this track. However, it’s quite an accomplishment too…To have the only flaw of an album is that one particular song knocks all others out of the park. “Love Me More” rides on the wave of adrenaline that was built up in “The Only Heartbreaker”.
It’s far from the same song, yet the pair are too similar to be put next to each other in the project. Meanwhile, “That’s Our Lamp” is the finale of this album, and what a way to bow out! The grandiose instrumental compliments the project theme in every way possible. It is a shorter track, too, yet Mitski delivers a great performance in the two minutes that it runs. Like a bolt of lightning, she electrifies the scene and quickly vanishes. Laurel Hell is one impressive homage to 80’s pop. Encompassed in darkness, Mitski’s sixth studio effort is a storm of her thoughts and actions as she decides where to go next with her career…
This album could very well be the key to the next chapter of Mitski’s music.