“How do other people live?” Mitski asks on the urgent, disco-infused “Love Me More” from her newest album, Laurel Hell, her first since 2018’s critically acclaimed Be The Cowboy. “I wonder how they keep it up.” The singer’s sixth album is full of the similarly blunt, sobering questions and musings that she’s known for. Thanks to top-notch songwriting, vocals, and production, Laurel Hell makes this journey more invigorating than devastating.
Mitski’s songs have always resembled a quick, emotional jab to the gut, deeply personal confessions that still feel somehow relatable thanks to the singer’s excellent delivery. Laurel Hell is even more refined than usual, clocking in with just eleven short songs with instrumentation ranging from soaring 80s synths to simple piano in an echoey room.
Conflicting desires for both independence and partnership go hand-in-hand throughout the album, as Mitski recounts her feelings stemming from turbulent relationships with both a lover and her career. On the jaunty standout “Should’ve Been Me”, Mitski describes the bizarre out-of-body experience of seeing an ex with a new partner who looks exactly like her. With such a specific theme and unusually fun production for her standards, it might leave one wishing the album could be just a smidge longer so they could get further insight into Mitski’s quirks.
At its end, Laurel Hell is Mitski’s own personal…well…hell, and she’s choosy about what parts we get to listen to and learn from. Even so, it’s a beautiful glimpse into the enigmatic singer’s ennui.
Best Track: “Should’ve Been Me”