“When I’m done singing this song I will have to find something else to do to keep me here”; on Mitski’s “Laurel Hell”


Mitski at Showbox SODO. Photo by David Lee.

By Payton Cavanaugh

It comes as no surprise that Mitski’s recent release Laurel Hell induces pretty much every human emotion in the book. From the heart-shattering misery of “Valentine Texas,” “Working for the Knife,” and “Everyone” to the confusion and desperation of “Heat Lightning,” and to the upbeat nature of “The Only Heartbreaker.” Laurel Hell embodies the complexities of self-worth, conformation in relationships, and distance from emotion in a very unique and intricate manner. 

When I first listened to the album, I went from euphoric highs to lying in a puddle of my own tears, and I’d like to think that’s a universal experience. 

One of the most beautiful things about Mitski’s music is that the musical composition can have you, as my friends like to describe, “swaying like kelp in the vast ocean.” Simultaneously, the lyrics will really make you sit and reflect on just about everything in life. 

Talking about that feeling, “Heat Lightning” in particular is an absolute masterpiece that genuinely sent chills down my spine. From the very first “I surrender,” this song has me completely transfixed. If I had to choose a track from this album that towers the rest, it would have to be this one. 

The feeling of conforming oneself and forcing themselves into the adoring eyes of another is all too common, and “Valentine Texas” chronicles this complexity. It embodies the feeling of conformation to fit the satisfaction of others, to yearn for love so much that you’re willing to mask your individuality.

I must admit, “The Only Heartbreaker” had me dancing around my small Little Building dorm room, feeling as though I was the protagonist in a cheesy and simultaneously classic 80s rom-com. And when the lyrics of “Love Me More” state: 

“I wish that this would go away

But when I’m done singing this song

I will have to find something else

To do to keep me here

Something else to keep me”

… I felt that. 

Moving into “There’s Nothing Left for You,” I genuinely believed I was getting a break from the emotional turmoil, but when the beat dropped on “you could touch fire,” I think I may have ascended. 

To speak on the experience of listening to this album, all I can say is it undoubtedly made me sit and reflect. Mitski as a whole is simply incredible, and the creativity and artistry in her work are truly phenomenal. This album is remarkable and I can genuinely say it has left me searching for the words to depict its beauty. 

The tracks on their own each tell a different aspect of searching for self-actualization, yet as an entire album, they tell a story of searching for oneself in the perception of another. These ideas are not unique to this album when looking at Mitski’s discography as a whole, however, the musical approach that was taken is what makes it so special. 

Mitski’s Laurel Hell is about so much more than what can be understood on its surface. Sure, the songs are about yearning for passion, love, and the feeling of raw nature of emotion. Yet, it’s also about the feelings of detachment curated from a newfound understanding of the world, from reality, and from the person you once were. It is about desperation for the ability to truly feel. It is about not knowing what’s to come, and pleading for what once was.