Review: “Laurel Hell”

Recently, on February fourth, Japanese American artist released her long awaited new album “Laurel Hell” after a four year long hiatus. Fans were ecstatic to hear about her return, and have been anticipating the release of the album since early November. This is her sixth album, and arguably the most heart wrenching. 

She began writing the album in 2018, and finished it during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns. She self describes the album as a “soundtrack for transformation, a map to the place where vulnerability and resilience, sorrow and delight, error and transcendence can all sit within our humanity, can all be seen as worthy of acknowledgment, and ultimately, love.” 

She also states that she wrote the album because she needed love songs about real relationships, not power struggles and that she wanted to write songs to help her forgive others as well as herself. Four of the eleven tracks were released before the release of the whole album, those being “Working for the Knife,” “Heat Lightning,” “The Only Heartbreaker,” and “Love Me More.” 

The album was heavily inspired by the sounds of the 80’s, and emphasizes the genres of synth pop, indie pop and electro rock, while also incorporating hints of new wave, dance music, disco and pop. The album went through many style changes in its development, starting as a punk album, then progressing to country before finally developing into the new wave synth style that it came out to be. 

The album is compact, teetering on the edge of thirty three minutes, as all of the rest of her albums are as well. Most of the songs stand at around two and a half minutes, few running over the three minute mark. Personally, I like this as it makes the songs feel more concise and personal. Mitski is known for her unrelenting vulnerability in her music, bringing her a cult following that has become enamored by her music over the years. 

Out of all of the featured tracks, my favorites would easily be “Love Me More,” “I Guess,” and “Should’ve Been Me.” “Should’ve Been Me” is described as a baroque pop song, which describes witnessing a lost love trying to find comfort in a copy of herself. “I Guess” describes the reflection on a past relationship and the feeling of being lost while you try to find yourself again while trying to figure out how to move on. “Love Me More” is a love song, but not in the traditional sense. . The lyrics describe falling in love so deeply that you completely lose yourself and any sense of identity that you once had. Overall, this new album was an incredible comeback after a long hiatus and has received rave reviews so far.