“Laurel Hell” is another hit from Mitski

Mitski’s songwriting is better than ever and her new foray into synthpop is a success.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

Indie singer-songwriter Mitski gained popularity from her last two albums, “Puberty 2” and “Be The Cowboy.” Her highly-anticipated follow-up “Laurel Hell” is finally here and finds her changing up her usual rock sound for a throwback to 1980s synthpop.

SONGWRITING BLISS

Mitski is known for crafting emotionally potent songs about heartbreak and insecurity, and “Laurel Hell” keeps that streak going. However, it is a welcome surprise that her songwriting is at her best here.

From the opener “Valentine, Texas,” where she paints a picture of clouds as both beautiful and disheartening, to closer “That’s Our Lamp,” where she reminisces over the light of her former, complicated relationship, Mitski paints vivid pictures of severe depression and anxiety with bittersweet vocals.

Mitski’s signature vocal style remains at its best when her melodies blend together with the instrumental. The chorus on “The Only Heartbreaker” observes Mitski leading a festival-ready hit that will get people singing and dancing, while “There’s Nothing Left Here For You” showcases her best vocal performance on the album along with a dynamic instrumental that grows in its space the more intense her vocals become.

Mitski frequently discusses relationships in her work, and this album is no exception—“Should’ve Been Me” and “The Only Heartbreaker” fit well within this topic. She seeks to run away from the problems of the world by turning to relationships and sex, marking these songs as the most emotionally affecting tracks on the album. “Everyone” and “Heat Lightning” are great examples of this, as they are evocative descriptions of suicidal thoughts and the simple need to be loved within those moments.

TRYING OUT SYNTHPOP

Mitski’s synthpop is reminiscent of the ‘80s. The electric piano beat on “Should’ve Been Me” sounds like it would be perfect for a Hall & Oates track, while the pulsing electro beat on “Love Me More” provides an interesting contrast to the song’s heavier themes of unrequited love.

At times, the instrumentals lack the dynamic production that her lyrical content needs. The instrumental on “Everyone,” for instance, makes small, meandering changes that do nothing to compliment the painfully honest revelations of the lyrics. While “That’s Our Lamp” contains an interesting portrait of a relationship that is both toxic yet desirable, the poppier edge to it both starkly contrasts the hauntingly spacious song “I Guess,” ending the album on a weird off-note that would be better placed earlier in the tracklist or as a bonus song on a deluxe edition.

WINNING STREAK

Despite some of the songs not landing completely, Mitski’s “Laurel Hell” is another great album in her catalog. Fans and newcomers alike will find a plethora of expertly written songs with a beautifully sheen of synths that provide both beauty and heartbreak in droves.

 

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