Mitski’s Long Awaited Return, “Laurel Hell” Review

After taking a hiatus from alternative music, Mitski returns with “Laurel Hell”, an indie-pop album built to succeed on TikTok.

Araminta Siegling, Culture Editor

Mitski’s long-awaited album “ Laurel Hell” was released after her 4-year break from the industry. The album is a continuation of the indie-pop sound that she developed on ‘Be the Cowboy”. While there are some songs on ‘Laurel Hell” that I love, I think this album doesn’t show her strengths as an artist. After creating a masterpiece like “Puberty 2”, I do not know how she could get better. As a big fan of Mitski, I am just happy she is back on the scene, even if all the tickets for her tour this spring sold out within minutes. 

After gaining popularity on TikTok with the song “Nobody”, her new album sounds like it was made to be successful on the social media platform. This is similar to the downfall of Phoebe Bridgers, who is also on the record label Dead Oceans. I wouldn’t call it “selling out”, but there is definitely a distinction between a heartfelt return to the scene after a 4-year hiatus, and a 30-minute album made to sound good in 15-second intervals over a video of a girl with a mullet. 

The strongest songs on this album were the ones that had been released as singles prior to the release of “Laurel Hell”. My personal favorites are “Working For The Knife” and “Heat Lightning”. Moody songs that call back to her past as being the most influential sad girl in the indie rock scene, before giving up her title to the likes of Phoebe Bridgers or Lucy Dacus. And no, Olivia Rodrigo and Willow Smith are not punk or sad girls. Mitski has a history of raw emotional lyrics combined with her beautiful voice and unique instrumentals, such as her mix of 80s pop and a subtle velvet underground influence in her newest album. 
Laurel hell is her most polished album yet, with a very clean sound and great quality everything. You can tell she has worked hard with producers to make this as clean as it can be. Still, “Puberty 2” rules my heart as Mitski’s best album, something full of raw emotion and vulnerability. This is something her albums since have lacked, she still shows vulnerability but it is not the same as “I Bet On Losing Dogs”, with its wonderfully pathetic line “I always want you when I’m finally fine”. 

To sum up her discography, her later albums like “Laurel Hell” allow you to feel bad for yourself without feeling bad about yourself, which I see in Phoebe Bridgers’s work. This new “Sad Girl” genre is allowing listeners to wallow in self-pity without criticizing themselves. It provides a safe space to blame everyone else for your failures.