Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Entertainment

Mitski’s Laurel Hell: A Review

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

So Mitski just released her album Laurel Hell.. and yeah, she’s done it again.

It’s safe to say I love the album. Mitski’s music is always an ethereal experience and the way she evolves with every song blows my mind every time. Nonetheless, let’s break this thing down song by song and pull out my favorites, shall we?

*DISCLAIMER: ALL OF THIS IS MY INDIVIDUAL OPINION OF MY FIRST FEW LISTENS ON THE ALBUM. EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN VIEW OF THE ALBUM. :)*

VALENTINE, TEXAS

If there’s one thing I love, and I hope you love, it’s some low, electric keys that make you feel like you’re floating. It’s such a great first song on an album. The lyrics almost beckon the listener to follow Mitski into the journey that is this album. The EXPLOSION of instruments, drums, keys, chimes, organ (?!?!!), is so ethereal and so clearly the beginning of something. For some reason, it’s reminding me of Rocky Horror Picture Show? I’ll let you guys decipher why that might be.

Overall, I really love it. But stacked up against the rest of these songs, it has a hard time beating the others.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 9/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 7/10
RANKING: 8

WORKING FOR THE KNIFE

Ah, yes, the song that made an entire fanbase lose their mind in October 2021. Working for The Knife is a soul-crushing piece especially if you’re an artist. It’s the inner monologue of every person who’s made their passion their life’s work. There’s no stopping, there’s only the constant push to create to sustain yourself or even your image. These lyrics are underscored by MORE ELECTRIC KEYS (guys, it’s like she sees me) and guitar that create an ominous, almost foreboding atmosphere that completely characterizes that gut dropping feeling to realize how much of yourself you are giving away to create profitable material. In the back, you can hear rhythmic clanging that adds to that the mechanical feeling of repetitive work.

Overall, this song cut deep when I first heard it, but it’s not my favorite. In part because it hits SO CLOSE TO HOME, and also in part because listening to it is so bittersweet. Consuming art, knowing the struggle that comes with being in the music industry, and the constant pressure to make your art palatable and consumable to a large audience, is an odd feeling. This song, and many of the others on the album, really urge you to zero in on that feeling.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 9/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 9/10
RANKING: 7

STAY SOFT

The upbeat sound of this song does NOT prepare you for the lyrics ahead. Mitski creates a danceable song, while also including lyrics pinpointing the fallout of your vulnerability being taken advantage of, and makes a few innuendos along the way. In my second listen of this song and full read of the lyrics, I realized how many layers this song actually has. I always love when an artist can take a concept and write a song that addresses so many of the nuances and pieces of that concept. They express multiple things within the context of a single line or verse. Mitski, of course, is no stranger to doing this.

Overall, this song is a fighter for the top of the ranking, but I don’t know if it can make it to that top spot.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 10/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 9/10
RANKING: 5

Everyone

Similar to Working For The Knife, this song gets the listener to zoom in on the underside of making music professionally. It isn’t necessarily sad, angry, or bitter… it’s just the TRUTH. Making art for the masses becomes a constant fight between “this is my passion” and “this is my job and its requirements are exhausting.” The beat that threads its way through the song is similar to the clanging in Working For the Knife, a hammering presence in a slightly mechanical atmosphere. Strangely though, I like this song better than its comparative track. I think because it is so raw and truthful, but not at really sad. It’s almost accepting in a melancholic way. It accepts that despite every attempt to not continue a pattern that is exhausting, you inevitably do, because you have to for a multitude of reasons. It almost gets hopeful at the end with the ascending piano entering in to signify this acceptance.

Overall, I really do love this song. I want to hold it in my arms and cradle it. Once again, I’ll be rating something controversially high.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 8/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 10/10
RANKING: 6

HEAT LIGHTNING

I think this track is one of the eeriest tracks on the album. It makes me feel as if I’m stumbling through a cave feeling for walls to guide me and giving up on finding light. Just as piano begins to creep in and give a semblance of hope, it distorts, as if being constrained. Maybe it’s because I’m reading it for class but it feels like the score characterizing the prisoners in Plato’s “Allegory Of The Cave.” Of course, this music goes perfectly with the lyrics that are fully about giving up and letting what you tried to fight finally win. A much darker acceptance than that of its album predecessor. There’s also this strangely “worship song” atmosphere to it. I’ve always thought that underscored by different music worship songs could have a much different meaning, and this proved that to me.

Overall, I enjoy what this song adds to the album, but it definitely isn’t my favorite. Stacked up against the rest of the album it doesn’t do it for me until closer to the end of the song. I will say though, with more listens it’s begun to grow on me. Maybe in the future it will rise in the rankings

RATING ON ITS OWN: 7/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 6/10
RANKING: 11

THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER

FULL DISCLOSURE: I LOVE THIS SONG. I love it so much. I love how deeply it dips into the synth, electric, 80s style of the whole album and how well it plays into the classic “sad lyrics, happy music” in its own way. The music break in the song is SO… SOOOOO. I can’t even express it. I love when an instrumental break rips through a song the way it does in this song.

Overall.. like I said… I LOVE, LOVE THIS SONG. You can guess what comes next, right?

RATING ON ITS OWN: 10/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 10/10
RANKING: 4

LOVE ME MORE

Honestly, I think this string of songs after The Only Heartbreaker are some of my favorites. Really, that’s a great sign of how well Mitski paced this album and ordered each addition. The rollercoaster she takes us on is so well planned out, so this is only natural. This is another hit that fully immerses itself in that electric synth and piano as well as having beautiful music breaks. The song is somehow sounds so desperate despite it’s music being so bright. It feels as if Mitski is truly begging this person to love her and each instrumental line is reaching out towards them with her. It’s chaotic in the most beautiful way.

Overall, this song is really amazing, and despite my attachment to The Only Heartbreaker, it ended up being the song I’ve had on repeat the last few days.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 10/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 10/10
RANKING: 3

THERE’S NOTHING LEFT HERE FOR YOU

This song’s opening creates a clear vision to me of a TV in a dark room with static playing on its screen. I almost want to direct a music video for it because it forms such a great visual in my mind. I love how simple it begins, just the keys and a drumming heartbeat in the back. It’s as simple as the message Mitski is trying to convey, raw and honest. As Mitski’s emotion grows more complicated and deep, so does the music, and then it suddenly SHIFTS BACK, as if reeling herself in. Continuing this melancholy feeling of accepting that it’s time to push something away, to stop waiting for it to change. It’s a great addition to the album.

Overall, I love what this track brings to the album, but it probably won’t be on repeat for me. I appreciate what it’s doing though. Even so, I still like it better than Heat Lightning? I can’t tell if it’s because of sound alone or that I feel more emotion in Mitski’s voice here

RATING ON ITS OWN: 6/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 8/10
RANKING: 9

Should’ve Been Me

This song, first of all, is well placed in the album. After such a sobering, accepting simple song as There’s Nothing Left Here For You, this more upbeat song with lyrics that are much more biting and regretful. It is once again this acceptance of the situation she’s left herself and her previous lover in, but in a much more guilty and at some points bitter tone. I love all the detail in this song. I feel as if there’s always a new instrumental line or short piece to find every time you listen. I also shouldn’t have to tell you that I love songs with dance-y music but sad lyrics

RATING ON ITS OWN: 10/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 10/10
RANKING: 1

I GUESS

This track is really special to me because it has so many interpretative layers. The literal end of the album. A message to Mitski’s supporters. A message to Mitski’s lover. I don’t think she intended that, but it’s what I get out of it. I strangely love this track so much. It’s hypnotizing. It feels like each song has gone through different stages of acceptance to get to THIS the most pure form of it. The sadness of the end coupled with the acknowledgement that it is good in the end. It’s almost sweet.

Overall,… yeah. Yeah.

RATING ON IT’S OWN: 10/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 10/10
RANKING: 2

THAT’S Our Lamp

This is such a goofy way to end an album from Mitski. You’d expect I Guess to close us out, but in the end I’m so glad she ended with this. It’s ending with a high note, fully descending into leaving this love behind with the still lingering sensation that it will stay with you or come back around. It’s a grand ending.

Overall, I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorites. I don’t have much to say about it. After the whirlwind of an album it just doesn’t stick with me.

RATING ON ITS OWN: 7/10
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ALBUM: 7/10
RANKING: 10

COMPILED RANKING

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

OVERALL, I TRULY ENJOYED this album.

I appreciated the style, the synth, the variety while still being true to Mitski’s essence, emotion, and vocalization. I always look forward to Mitski’s work and will continue to do so. I know my opinions may be controversial, but just know my music opinion is always shifting so this ranking could even be different by the time this is posted. What do you guys think? What was your favorite track? Least favorite? Think it over and let me know!

Jasmine Diaz

Winthrop '25

Hi! I'm Jasmine and I'm so excited you're here! I'm so passionate about writing, theatre, bettering myself and learning about the world around me. I hope anything I write inspires you, teaches you something, or just gives you a bit of joy in your day.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️