Mitski Laurel Hell Dean Oceans
No artist captures the humdrum indignity of being alive quite like Mitski. TikTok users know this well – they cherry-pick her back catalogue to accompany their posts because, at her best, Mitski captures everyday devastations like loneliness (Nobody), yearning (Washing Machine Heart), and existentialism (Me and My Husband) in pint-sized narratives. Laurel Hell, Mitski’s sixth album and her formal return from hiatus, condenses a life’s worth of these devastations into 11 short tracks.
But even on Laurel Hell’s more heartbreaking new wave belters, Mitski contrasts her flair for melodrama with a matter-of-fact nonchalance that’s far from the pleading of Your Best American Girl or Lonesome Love. Here, Mitski turns away from her unruly rage and faces herself instead. Not even the Bananarama-inspired 80s beat on the The Only Heartbreaker can obscure Mitski’s clarity and intent: she knows that she’ll always be the one to fuck it up, and begs for forgiveness.
There’s plenty to learn about Mitski on Laurel Hell. She hates good advice (Everyone), she’s at her limits (Heat Lightning), and she’s willing to change (Love Me More). But where she once indulged her feelings to their fullest extent, now Mitski is generous with her humility. On Should Have Been Me, a track so jaunty it could have been written by Hall & Oates, Mitski is level-headed as she stalks an ex’s new girlfriend on Instagram. Though she has moved on, she sings to her ex without the slightest hint of sadness on I Guess, boldly admitting, “from here, I can tell you thank you”. It’s a seismic moment of surrender that perfectly encapsulates Laurel Hell – an album that sifts through the ugly feelings until you’re left with something like hope.