Mitksi’s highly anticipated sixth album “Laurel Hell” has dark origins, but the atmosphere of the name aptly encompasses the album. It gets its name from large thickets of laurel that grow in southern Appalachia, which are simultaneously beautiful and ominous — the thickets can be so dense that people get hopelessly lost.
“Laurel Hell” was released after Mitski’s nearly two-year-long break from music. The singer-songwriter made the decision to take a break from the constant churning of the music industry as a means of self-care, which is encapsulated in the album’s first single, “Working for the Knife.” The album further delves into Mitski’s feelings about pursuing music, and in doing so, vulnerably addresses the fear and uncertainty that comes when a passion becomes an obligation. “Everyone” and “Love Me More” reflect on similar emotions, respectively describing the unexpected consequences that come with fame and the desire for her fans’ love.
“Laurel Hell” takes an axe to the typical idea of love songs and gives us a deeper, realer, more melancholic take on the gray areas of struggling through a relationship. “Laurel Hell” fits both the feeling of getting lost in work and getting lost in love. Both can be beautiful, but getting lost in them can be hell.
The remainder of the songs on the album — including danceable bops “Stay Soft” and “Should’ve Been Me,” and more somber tracks like “I Guess” and “Nothing Left for You” — explore different aspects of relationships. Mitski approaches the vulnerability that comes with love from all angles, such as the regret that comes with not being able to give a partner what they need out of a relationship, and the power someone wields when they have our love.
“Laurel Hell” takes this exploration of the idea of love a little further by mixing the classic emotional lyrical stylings of Mitski with ‘80s inspired funky synth-pop and disco. This iconic pairing creates some of the most danceable sad songs to ever be played. The album truly took the feeling of crying in a club and turned it into music. This pairing of upbeat synth-pop with emotionally dire lyrics serves as a way of showing how exciting but also heart-shattering love can be.
“Laurel Hell” dismantles a romanticized ideal of love within its complex lyrics and musical choices. The album is a nice departure from Mitski’s previous album, and provides excellent synth-pop and disco-based songs that really set this album apart from her previous works.