Mitski returns to music with a dynamic
By Lily Isakson-Bell, Reporter
In Mitski’s most recent album, “Laurel Hell,” there is a distinct sense of completeness. Mitski is a Japanese-American singer/songwriter who writes songs about her experience as an Asian woman, sadness and loneliness, and stories about past romances. Maybe this feeling of “wholeness” is due to its predecessor album “Be The Cowboy.” Mitski Mitski creates albums in twos. The first album is the beginning of her experimentation with the equipment readily available to her or the sound she wants to pursue and the second is Mitski refining what she had set out with. While the albums are not actually connected, you can tell how their sounds evolve from each other. But maybe “Laurel Hell”s start-to-finish story feels final because of the context in which it was made.
In late 2019, Mitski played Summerstage in Central Park, a show that she had thought was going to be her last because of her decision to quit music. She later rescinded the message on social media because of online panic. However, she really had planned for that to be her last show and to quit music for good.
“Laurel Hell” is Mitski’s first album back after realizing she was contractually bound to a sixth album. The lead single off of “Laurel Hell,” ‘Working for the Knife’ was written in late 2019. The song is incredible, detailing the common struggle of pursuing your art. In the song Mitski sings: ‘I used to think I’d be done by twenty / Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same / Though maybe at thirty, I’ll see a way to change.’ These lyrics give another dimension to Mitski’s struggle with fame and her initial decision to quit music.
“Laurel Hell” is Mitski’s last contractually obligated album, something she had not taken into account when she had originally planned to quit music. Mitski had doubts on whether or not she wanted to promote this album or just put it out to the world. Her decision is now evident in her 51-stop tour (including festivals) and four music videos she’s put out for the album.
The music videos are a perfectly stylized portrayal of the lonely, movement-filled hysterics that Mitski is carrying on from ‘Be The Cowboy.’ From the choreography she performs in a frantic daze while being pulled backwards across the floor in the ‘Stay Soft’ music video to the mesmerizing dance she pounds into a stage floor in the ‘Working for the Knife’ music video, the visuals make an already powerful album so much stronger. ‘Love Me More’ and ‘The Only Heartbreaker’ are the other two songs off of “Laurel Hell” with a visual counterpart. In both songs, Mitski wraps lyrics of the cruel reality of love in upbeat synth, throwing herself along to the beat in a frantic dance as she does so.This aspect of Mitski’s art shows up again when she’s on stage, and how she treats concerts like performance art, complete with heartfelt, modern choreography.
Whether or not Mitski has thrown herself into the promotion of “Laurel Hell” because she wants a triumphant return to music or because she wants to go out with a bang has yet to be seen. Whatever she chooses, the legacy of her music, from her first album “Lush” to “Laurel Hell” will remain.