get a new one Mitsky album in 2022 seems surreal. The indie rock star was catapulted to fame after Puberty 2 (2016) and be the cowboy (2018). The intensity and size of her following led her to a grueling yet necessary decision: she announced in late 2019 that she was taking an indefinite hiatus and fell off the face of the earth.
Mitski has taken the time in the meantime to reconnect with his passion and his name. Today, she reappropriates an identity that escaped her and deconstructs the myth that has been built around her enigmatic figure. Named after Appalachian flowers that grow on an inextricable mass of twisting branches from which there is no escape, Laurel Hell sees Mitski delve deeper into the soulful dance pop she’s immersed herself in be the cowboy.
“Working for the Knife” marked his official return to music in October. The track was written shortly after Mitski began considering starting a completely different career. “I used to think I would be done at 20,” she sings. “Now, at 29, the road ahead looks the same.” The song details his reluctance to keep the machine running to avoid stagnation at all costs. It alludes to a broader critique of societal pressures and consumerism that helps shed light on why Mitski chose to step away from the spotlight for a while.
The outside world is put on pause as she formulates her reaction to that same unhappy conformity in “Everyone.” In it, the synths are a considerable disturbing presence reigning over an illusion of defiance. It’s only when Mitski acknowledges the dark truth (“Sometimes I think I’m free/Until I find I’m online again”) that the music becomes triumphant and the wheels of time take over. relay.
The album plays to Mitski’s strengths as a songwriter and performer. She delivers lines as if only she could write them. When she sighs, “When today is finally over/There’s another day coming/Then another day coming/Then another day coming”, on “Love Me More”, she does so with a Characteristic theatrical cadence that maximizes the effect the words could have on the listener.
All along Laurel Hell exudes a determined will to break binaries and delve into new narratives that Mitski had not yet explored in his art. Where she indulged in short analogies for feelings of loss and longing in her previous work, she is now adamant about residing in a gray area that more accurately reflects who she is as a person.
The temptations of dichotomy are strong and she sometimes flirts with her reductive character, as in “The Only Heartbreaker”, when she reveals: “I will be the loser at this game”. But more often than not, she embraces new perspectives and rejects black-and-white narratives. In that same track, she accepts the villain role in a relationship as the guitar drifts away — at first glance. She’s actually playing the blame game, accepting that role as the only person of the two who is truly trying.
On Motown-inspired “Should’ve Been Me,” she understands why a partner would cheat and even apologizes for helping lead them there. “Gotta be lonely loving someone / Trying to get out of a maze,” she admits. The whole shebang is festive and grand, which makes the pill all the easier to swallow.
Another euphoric moment erupts on “That’s Our Lamp,” as Mitski dances on the grave of a now-defunct relationship. She finds comfort and joy in the fact that she has always been loved and closes a long album of rejoicing at the end of something that has run its course. The possibilities now seem endless and as she walks into the unknown, she can always look back fondly, “That’s where you loved me.”
Follow writer Red Dziri on Twitter.com/red_dziri.