Mitski’s Laurel Hell: Was It Worth The Wait?

Mary Beth Johnson

For all of the Mitski fans out there, this article has good and bad news. The good news? Mitski released a new album to spend the next four years listening to. The bad news? It doesn’t sound like the Mitski fans know and love.

Mitski’s newest album is entitled “Laurel Hell.” It is important to note that while this album may sound upbeat in the beginning, it is far from that. Mitski was technically retired from the music business until she discovered that her contract required another album from her, making it less from her heart and more for business. She talks more about this in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. This isn’t stopping her, however, from touring globally and opening for Harry Styles. 

“Valentine, Texas,” the opening track, has an ominous and synth-filled ring to it. Towards the middle of the song, the synth intensifies, creating a major-key melody with a sound similar to that of the popular group Beach House. This track sets the tone for the entire album, which is filled with unsettling synths and purposely off-key melodies. 

One of the singles on the record, “Working for the Knife” was one of the first songs released and undoubtedly the most popular of the record with over 21 million listens on Spotify alone. The backing track carries the noise of clinking, reminding the listener of railroad noises, but what really resonated was the message of the song. As she sings, “I used to think I’d be done by twenty; Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same,” The listener feels a sense of dread towards the future as it looks like it’s just work from here on out. 

In a similar line, she sings, “I always thought the choice was mine, and I was right, but I just chose wrong,” referring to her mixed feelings about the career she chose. This track fully encapsulates the angst and frustration of someone unhappy with the prospect of working for the rest of their life, or in Mitski’s case, signing a contract that she didn’t realize required another album of her. 

Some of the best tracks off the album include “Heat Lightning,” a soulful, hymn-like song about forgiveness and internal turmoil, as well as “Should’ve Been Me,” about what the listener can assume is a lover who she lost due to shutting herself away from the world. 

Those, however, are the only strong tracks on the album. Mitski’s voice and style sound a lot better when they are backed by guitars and pianos, not so much the upbeat synths. She did a wonderful job incorporating mountains of meaning in each song, but this album will not be on repeat for many Mitski fans.. 

“I’ve never heard anything like this album. I think Mitski’s voice just isn’t meant for so much synth in the background, but I’m sure there will still be some hits,” said MHS senior Veronica Sheehan, an avid Mitski fan.

That said, fans hope Mitski releases something else in the coming years, though she is probably sick of the music industry, as conveyed through her recent album. All in all, the meaning and lyrics of this record will definitely resonate with the larger music community, even if the melodies themselves are a little questionable.