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Laurel Hell is a soundtrack for transformation where vulnerability and resilience, sorrow and delight, error and transcendence can all be seen as human, worthy of acknowledgment, and ultimately, love. It cements Mitski as an artist who possesses the power of turning our most savage and alienated experiences into the very elixir that cures them. Be the Cowboy, Pitchfork, New York Magazine and more’s Album of the Year, launched Mitski from cult favorite to indie star amid a fever of national division. The touring grind and pitfalls of increased visibility influenced her music and spirit. Like the mountain laurels for which this new album is named, public perception, like the intoxicating prism of the internet, can offer an alluring façade that obscures a deadly trap—it tightens the more you struggle. Exhausted by this warped mirror, and our addiction to false binaries, Mitski began writing songs that stripped away the masks and revealed their complex and contradictory realities. Mitski’s longest ever writing process concluded amid a radically changed world. She recorded Laurel Hell with her longtime producer Patrick Hyland throughout the pandemic, during which some of the songs “slowly took on new forms and meanings, like seed to flower.”
The tension that emerges between her refined but plaintive lyrics and the effervescent 1980s sound is a desperately needed infusion. It’s the work of a mature artist that delivers nuanced profundity on a current of contagious dance beats.