Laurel Hell takes a sharp detour from the Mitski discography of the past. Ditching the lucid angst that established her as a tour de force on Puberty 2 and Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Laurel Hell leans into heavy ’80s synth, alternating between soft-sung ballads and soaring pop swells. Though less lyrically rich than her previous work, Mitski’s sixth studio album, out now, still delivers devastating lines that you can cry or dance yourself to sleep with.
Laurel Hell has been in the works for years, predating 2018’s Be the Cowboy. The album reflects Mitski’s metamorphosis from a “Class of 2013” SUNY Purchase student into a magnetic artist who shuns the spotlight. As Mitski’s fifth album, Be the Cowboy, exploded in popularity, Mitski’s song “Nobody” became a TikTok mainstay. Her lyrics were diced up, dissected, and reinterpreted by fans old and new. During this period, she obtained a reputation as a cultlike, quasi-religious oracle for discontented youth. Laurel Hell examines her uneasy ascent into stardom.
In a Vulture profile, Mitski encapsulated the spirit of her album: “Things get lost or break or disappear,” she told Vulture. “People come and go. But my songs, my writing, it was mine.” Devastate yourself with the Mitskiest Laurel Hell lyrics below.
“Let’s step carefully into the dark / Once we’re in I’ll remember my way around”
Hello darkness, my old friend. The album’s opening lyric unfolds like the dark hallway in “House of Leaves.” Named after a town in Jeff Davis County, Texas, the song conjures fingerprints gliding across blackened walls.
“Working for the Knife”
“I used to think I’d be done by 20 / Now at 29, the road ahead appears the same”
Same, Mitski, same. Comrade Mitski tackles the existential dread of getting older in this anti-capitalist anthem.
“I cry at the start of every movie / I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too / But I’m working for the knife”
The last movie I cried to was Wonder Woman 1984. In my defense, I had just started a new birth control, and Gal Gadot’s monologue on how we should all love each other made me weep.
“I always thought the choice was mine / And I was right but I just chose wrong”
Ah, the illusion of free choice.
“It’s why I’ve arrived, your sex god”
BRB, spontaneously combusting.
“You stay soft and get eaten / Only natural to harden up.”
Even Mitski can’t resist a good innuendo.
“The Only Heartbreaker”
“If you would just make one mistake / What a relief that would be”
If you’ve ever been the asshole in a relationship, you’ll understand this sentiment.
“Love Me More”
“If I keep myself at home / I won’t make the same mistake / That I made for 15 years”
If I keep myself at home, I won’t end up at another Bushwick loft party listening to a dude play Neutral Milk Hotel guitar covers.
“Come back to mine / We’ll pretend it ends tomorrow”
The “it” at the center of this lyric is kept vague. Is Mitski referring to the end of a relationship? The end of the world?
“Should’ve Been Me”
“When I saw the girl looked just like me / And it broke my heart, the lengths you went / To hold me”
Mitski once sang in “Brand New City,” “If I gave up on being pretty / I wouldn’t know how to be alive.” In “Should’ve Been Me,” she takes beauty out of the equation by tackling how infidelity can make you chase a simulacrum of what you really want.
“If I could keep / Anything of you / I would keep / Just this quiet after you”
We finally found it — the Mitskiest Laurel Hell lyric. She shuffles through love and loss with the knowledge that they are cyclical. Still, some things are left behind in the rotation: quiet and scar tissue.
“It’s been you and me / Since before I was me / Without you I don’t know quite how to live”
This line is genuinely devastating. It doesn’t matter if you think Mitski is singing about men or the music industry itself; the lyric captures how grueling it is to peel yourself away from something that feels like it’s always been a part of you.
“That’s Our Lamp”
“’Cause you just don’t like me / Not like you used to”
“Like” is an understatement for how the general populace feels about Mitski.
This is not a real Laurel Hell lyric, but it should be.