Mitski’s ‘Laurel Hell’ steps carefully into the dark

Mitski’s newest album addresses her emotions regarding her career.


Natalie Cullen

Mitski’s newest album addresses her emotions regarding her career.

Natalie Cullen, Online Editor-in-Chief

Mitski Miyawaki has always been conscious of her career status and the turmoil of publicity. 

Back in 2019, Mitski announced that she would be on an “indefinite hiatus”, which was likely intended to be permanent. Fans were surprised when she reactivated on social media on Oct. 4th, 2021 to promote her new song, Working for the Knife, and later her new album, Laurel Hell. Currently, Mitski is on tour around the country and just last weekend she sang at the Moody Theater in Austin. 

At first listen, Laurel Hell sounds different from Mitski’s usual indie-rock discography. In the first song of the album titled Valentine, Texas, Mitski slowly describes stepping into the dark, a metaphorical representation of her return to creating music. It has a dark and brooding tone that allows viewers to enter the darkness alongside her. 

The second song in the album, Working for the Knife draws contrast from what Mitski once believed her career would be like. She starts with the line “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ‘cause I wish I was making things too,” which details the naive thoughts of success she had in her 20s and the dissatisfaction she feels with what she has accomplished.

The next group of songs in this album further escalate in energy and retro sound. In Love Me More, Mitski is unafraid to embrace the ever-popular 80s synth-wave music that many other artists have used recently. In Everyone, Mitski describes following her own path, contrary to what those around her have ushered her to do. 

The last song in the album, That’s Our Lamp, is the happiest and yet saddest song of all. The song is energetic and fast paced compared to her usual slow and steady take on music. Even so, the lyrics are heart-wrenching and describe a failing relationship.

Mitski has garnered a massive online presence even during her hiatus.

One thing I’ve always loved about Mitski is the contrast of her more upbeat music with sorrowful and melancholy lyrics. In her previous album Be The Cowboy, her song Washing Machine Heart bypassed 200 million Spotify plays during her hiatus. Her songs have been featured in millions of TikTok videos, with her song Nobody taking the internet by storm with over 450,000 videos. 

I’ve always appreciated the raw emotion Mitski brings into both her music and vulnerable lyricism. Although Laurel Hell has relatively upbeat themes, the lyrics show her true emotions behind the industry she resides in. In the first few lines of I Guess, the second to last song in the album, Mitski states that “I guess this is the end/ I’ll have to learn/To be somebody else.” She sings mournfully as she begins to draw close to her album. I would rate this album a 5/5; Mitski’s music and solemn lyricism never fail to bring emotion to her listeners.