Mitski – Laurel Hell

Laurel Hell, Mitski’s bold return to music, brings enchanting beats, gut-wrenching honesty, and even more wisdom

Album Review by Katie Cutforth | 31 Jan 2022
  • Mitski - Laurel Hell
Album title: Laurel Hell
Artist: Mitski
Label: Dead Oceans
Release date: 4 Feb

‘Let’s step carefully into the dark’ are the words Mitski has chosen to open her record, spoken tentatively over humming synth. ‘Once we’re in, I’ll remember my way around.’ These lyrics carry significant meaning. Laurel Hell – named after a folk term for beautiful but deadly thickets of mountain laurel – marks Mitski’s first release since something of a hiatus. In 2019 she announced she would cease performing indefinitely, citing a disillusion with “staying in the game, in the constant churn.”

She addresses this tension on lead single Working for the Knife, where the desire for pure, unadulterated artistic creation becomes a subject in itself. It’s the best song on the record, setting the tone, and capturing everything Mitski does best: an enrapturing, satisfying melody, catchy in the most intelligent ways, and with lyrics both deeply personal and darkly pervasive. 

Other highlights include the stormy, sensual Heat Lightning and the flirty, punchy Stay Soft that drifts with the same restless energy as her sleeper hit Nobody. The record does peter out a little with the closing few songs, and it can’t be said that Mitski has broken significantly new ground. Still, she’s as enchanting as ever.

Listen to: Working for the Knife; Valentine, Texas; Stay Soft