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MITSKI

Mitski

Laurel Hell

    We don’t typically look to pop albums to answer our cultural moment, let alone to meet the soul hunger left in the wake of global catastrophe. But occasionally, an artist proves the form more malleable and capacious than we knew. With Laurel Hell, Mitski cements her reputation as an artist in possession of such power - capable of using her talent to perform the alchemy that turns our most savage and alienated experiences into the very elixir that cures them. Her critically beloved last album, Be the Cowboy, built on the breakout acclaim of 2016’s Puberty 2 and launched her from cult favorite to indie star. She ascended amid a fever of national division, and the grind of touring and pitfalls of increased visibility influenced her music as much as her spirit.

    Like the mountain laurels for this new album is named, public perception, like the intoxicating prism of the internet, can offer an alluring façade that obscures a deadly trap—one that tightens the more you struggle. Exhausted by this warped mirror, and our addiction to false binaries, she began writing songs that stripped away the masks and revealed the complex and often contradictory realities behind them. She wrote many of these songs during or before 2018, while the album finished mixing in May 2021. It is the longest span of time Mitski has ever spent on a record, and a process that concluded amid a radically changed world. She recorded Laurel Hell with her longtime producer Patrick Hyland throughout the isolation of a global pandemic, during which some of the songs “slowly took on new forms and meanings, like seed to flower.” Sometimes it’s hard to see the change when you’re the agent of it, but for the lucky rest of us, Mitski has written a soundtrack for transformation, a map to the place where vulnerability and resilience, sorrow and delight, error and transcendence can all sit within our humanity, can all be seen as worthy of acknowledgment, and ultimately, love.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A:
    1. Valentine, Texas
    2. Working For The Knife
    3. Stay Soft
    4. Everyone
    5. Heat Lightning
    SIDE B:
    6. The Only Heartbreaker
    7. Love Me More
    8. There’s Nothing Left For You
    9. Should’ve Been Me
    10. I Guess
    11. That’s Our Lamp

    Hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock following the breakout success of 2016’s Puberty 2, Mitski returns with Be The Cowboy, via Dead Oceans.

    Mitski’s carefully crafted songs have often been portrayed as emotionally raw, overflowing confessionals from a fevered chosen girl, but in her fifth album, Mitski introduces a persona who has been teased before but never so fully present until now—a woman in control.

    “For this new record, I experimented in narrative and fiction,” comments Mitski. Though she hesitates to go so far as to say she created full-on characters, she reveals she had in mind “a very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel. Because women have so little power and showing emotion is seen as weakness, this ‘character’ clings to any amount of control she can get. Still, there is something very primordial in her that is trying to find a way to get out.”

    In Be The Cowboy, Mitski delves into the loneliness of being a symbol and the loneliness of being someone, how it can feel so much like being no one. Lead single “Geyser” introduces us to a woman who can’t hold it all in any more. She’s about to burst and unleash a torrent of desire and passion that has been building up inside. While recording the album with her long-time producer Patrick Hyland, the pair kept returning to “the image of someone alone on a stage, singing solo with a single spotlight trained on them in an otherwise dark room. For most of the tracks, we didn’t layer the vocals with doubles or harmonies, to achieve that campy ‘person singing alone on stage’ atmosphere.”

    There is plenty of buoyant swagger on Be The Cowboy, but just as much interrogation into self-mythology. Throughout these 14 songs, the music swerves from the cheerful to the plaintive. Mournful piano ballads lead into deceptively uptempo songs. “I had been on the road for a long time, which is so isolating, and had to run my own business at the same time. A lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski.”

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: We aren't the only ones who've been eagerly awaiting a new Mitski album, with the news on this outing being VERY warmly received online, and listening to it, it's no surprise. Forward thinking synth-pop progressions, beautifully balanced song structures and Mitski's unmistakeable vocals. Superb stuff.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    1. Geyser
    2. Why Didn't You Stop Me?
    3. Old Friend
    4. A Pearl
    5. Lonesome Love
    6. Remember My Name
    7. Me And My Husband

    SIDE B
    8. Come Into The Water
    9. Nobody
    10. Pink In The Night
    11. A Horse Named Cold Air
    12. Washing Machine Heart
    13. Blue Light
    14. Two Slow Dancers

    Mitksi’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2014 breakout album ‘Bury Me At Makeout Creek’.

    Ask Mitski about happiness and she’ll warn you: “Happiness fucks you.” It’s a lesson that’s been writ large into the New Yorker’s gritty, outsider-indie for years but never so powerfully as on her newest album, ‘Puberty 2’. “Happiness is up, sadness is down, but one’s almost more destructive than the other,” she says. “When you realize you can’t have one without the other, it’s possible to spend periods of happiness just waiting for that other wave.” On ‘Puberty 2’ that tension is palpable: a both beautiful and brutal romantic hinterland, in which one of America’s new voices hits a brave new stride.

    “No one else can make shattering sound like such an act of strength.” - Stereogum

    “Her songs build a quiet fury with lyrics that pulverize the heart while still making a break-up seem almost beautiful.” - Paste Magazine

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Puberty 2 is very original and distinctive in every sense. A strong element of both mixed electronic riffs and heavy guitars gives it a fierce prominent essence; it’s pieced with authentic and wistful lyrics. Her voice begins as a soft lullaby then builds into this astonishing provoked voice of passion.

    TRACK LISTING

    Happy
    Dan The Dancer
    Once More To See You
    Fireworks
    Your Best American Girl
    I Bet On Losing Dogs
    My Body’s Made Of Crushed Little Stars
    Thursday Girl
    A Loving Feeling
    Crack Baby
    A Burning Hill


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