Mitski had made up her mind after finishing her “Be The Cowboy” tour in late 2019: after months of frequent shows, press, and supporting her biggest album to date, she was quitting music for good. “I felt it was shaving away my soul little by little,” said Mitski in a recent profile, describing the anxiety, pressure, and existential dread she was experiencing as simply too much to bear.
Of course, endings aren’t always that simple. She began working on Be The Cowboy’s follow-up quickly after, but only because she was contractually obligated to do so; yet, after over two years of writing and recording in the midst of a global pandemic, Mitski arrives this week (February 4th) with her sixth studio album, Laurel Hell. And by all measures, Laurel Hell is yet another phenomenal entry in Mitski’s unique, wholly original catalog of music.
Laurel Hell finds Mitski advancing upon the sonic experimentation in 2018’s Be The Cowboy, but with an even larger emphasis on the disco-adjacent pop that characterized her biggest song “Nobody.” Mitski claims that even though Laurel Hell’s “lyrics might be depressing,” she still needed something “peppy to get me through this.”
“This” can refer to the bleakness of the pandemic or the dread she was facing upon returning to music, but either way, there’s a deep focus on creating music that seeks to unite listeners before isolating them.