Diving into Mitksi’s “Laurel Hell” was like eating your second favorite candy bar and not knowing that it has nuts in it until your third bite. After over three years without a full album released, Mitski’s “Laurel Hell” quenched the drought for her fans on Feb. 4. Let me begin with saying that I am not familiar with Mitski, nor am I familiar with this genre of music. However, I did my due diligence and took the time to listen to a variety of her discography so that I could get a better understanding of what exactly I was listening to. I am always excited to jump into a new genre of music and typically do so at least once a month, so Mitski seemed like a reasonable addition to my Spotify history.
“Valentine, Texas,” the introduction to “Laurel Hell,” threw me off with volumes of sharp enunciation resembling heartbroken ASMR. Aside from that, the song does have its moments and almost had me nodding along with the beat, but that was the extent of it. Mitski unfortunately follows up with a complete whiff on her track “Working for the Knife.” This was my least favorite song on the album, mainly because of the off sync metalworking sounds in the background. It placed the song in an entirely different decade with an 80s vibe that wasn’t present throughout the rest of the album. Overall, this song left me very unsatisfied and wanting much more vocally and thematically.
My musical needs were met with her following track, “Stay Soft.” Although I have not heard much of Mitski’s work, her voice was heavy hitting and rich, which paired extremely well with the forte piano chords. The good didn’t last long, however. The following two songs, “Everyone” and “Heat Lightning,” felt very distant. “Everyone” has an overabundance of sound effects and dissonance that really draws attention away from the lyrics. On top of that, her soft, whiny, monotone voice on this track was very disappointing compared to her performance on the previous track. “Heat Lighting” feels like two songs thrown into one. It starts with a country/western intro and quickly washes that feeling away with a short lick on a broken piano followed by pop high hats throughout the background of the remainder of the song.
My two favorite songs on this album include “Love Me More” and “Should’ve Been Me.” Mitski does a great job of using the different levels of her voice and pairing it with various instruments. “Love Me More” really grabs the listener’s ear with the consistent crescendo and decrescendo leading up to the chorus, and “Should’ve Been Me” has an extremely happy feeling beat and flow that makes it very easy to listen to.
This album seems like a great listen for someone who is lost or going through a very confusing emotional period of their lives. Fortunately, I am not in that place currently, which left me confused and overall unimpressed with about half of the only 32 minute long album. “Laurel Hell” has its shining moments; the lyrics are thought provoking and a couple of Mitski’s songs even made it onto one of my Spotify playlists. But, in the end, the album as a whole is conclusively dissatisfying.