Mitski’s sixth studio album “Laurel Hell,” released on Saturday, Feb. 4, is a distant, synthy opus that looms over its listener, leaving behind an unshakeable lingering dread. It is Mitski to the highest degree.

Coming out of a nearly three-year hiatus originally intended to be a permanent departure from music, this album is about Mitski’s tumultuous, fraught relationship with her own career. As a long-time fan, it’s completely heart-shattering to listen to. It’s tinged with regret, or perhaps total ambivalence, to the fame she’s garnered through her work. 

One of the most effective tracks for me was “Valentine, Texas.” It starts off gently before suddenly erupting into rapturous instrumentals, similar to the opening tracks of “Texas Reznikoff” and “Geyser.” When she utters the line, “I’ll show you who my sweetheart’s never met / wet teeth, shining eyes / glimmering by a fire,” the song completely consumes you. She shifts into a mythic force, and it’s absolutely sublime.



Mitski’s strong point has always been her lyrics, and this album is no exception. Though packed with less rich storytelling than some of her other albums, every line is perfectly evocative and surgically precise. It’s the story of a woman caught up in an endless cycle, exhausted of all fighting spirit: “Sometimes I think I am free, until I find I’m back in line again.”

Lyrically, this album is very much about her troubled relationship with her music career. The final track, “That’s Our Lamp,” is drenched in resigned frustration. As she sings about her lover waiting for her patiently in their apartment, the sounds of crowds flood the backing instrumentations like a stadium rejoicing in her pain as she cries out for a way to escape the grip of her career.

Longtime fans will revel in the echoes of previous albums. The track “Everyone” pulls imagery from “Abbey,” a track from her first album; compare “And I opened my arms wide to the dark / I said take it all, whatever you want” to “There is a light, I feel it in me / but only, it seems, when the dark surrounds me.”

In the same track, the line “I didn’t know that I was young” echoes the iconic line “I was so young when I behaved 25 / yet now I find I’ve grown into a tall child” from the “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” track from “First Love/Late Spring.” Many points in this album feel like she is crying back into the void, trying to relay some hopeless message to her younger self. 

This album is totally subsumed by a sort of hopeless flailing on the narrator’s part as she appeals to her lover or her music or herself, desperately searching for a reaction. It’s all over the record, from “The Only Heartbreaker” and “That’s Our Lamp,” which are ostensibly about going back to a relationship in which she is the erratic party, to the absolutely painful “Love Me More,” in which Mitski cries out for more love, “enough to fill me up.”

I think Mitski is tuned into something imperceptibly nuanced that most will never have the chance to articulate within their lifetime. Each of her songs is like a never-ending well in which I greedily quench my own desperations and pains. At times, I feel like that insatiable narrator in “Love Me More,” searching to drown out an invincible loneliness with her music. She effortlessly speaks out every profound thought I have ever skirted around with cutting exactness.

The loneliness of “Laurel Hell” is what struck me most intensely. It’s an unresolved kind of loneliness. She allows for few small comforts. As she utters the tragic line, “Without you, I don’t yet know quite how to live,” in “I Guess,” you can practically feel the weight of the world puddling around you. 

Even though you know she will inevitably be pulled back into that never-ending cycle of her love — her music — you’re still left feeling gluey inside. Something has been broken that will never be fixed, and yet she peddles on, stepping carefully into the dark just once more.

Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle