#38 Mitski: Laurel Hell

Sometimes I think I am free
Until I find I’m back in line again


Ma dudes, Mitski’s sixth record is really fucking depressing. We’ve already seen plenty of records on this year’s list that deal with weighty and emotionally devastating subjects. But ‘Laurel Hell’ is different. It doesn’t just contain sad lyrics, but it’s very sound is beaten, dejected, empty. Like, total bummer, you get me?

It might just be me. I am, as you might have noticed, a total bummer merchant. I’m sure most people would still find it depressing just knowing the general story behind it. Mitski had sacrificed everything in order to do music for a living (“I will neglect everything else, including me as a person, just to get to keep making music”), and with the wider acclaim and success of ‘Be the Cowboy‘ she seemed to have lived her dream to the extent that she no longer needed to do it. And, having realised the sacrifices such success entails, she decided to chuck it all in. She wrote one of her greatest ever songs Working for the Knife in late 2019 as a spectacular and self-explanatory goodbye to the business (“I always thought the choice was mine/And I was right, but I just chose wrong”). Whereupon her label said, erm, no, you’re still contracted for one more album. Get back out there and dance for us. ‘Laurel Hell’ is that album. I’m sure Mitski was overwhelmingly happy to make it

I also found an extra layer of sadness contained within. Maybe it was already intended, please Mitski, I’m so sorry if it was, I don’t want another Pusha T situation. ‘Laurel Hell’ is the sound of the relentless and soul destroying march of capitalism, and reminds me why I joined the Communist Party in 2021.

Mitski noticing a spectre haunting Europe

‘Laurel Hell’ outlines what capitalism’s churn and enforced responsibilities can do to a person, how art is far from safe from being depressingly commodified and incorporated into the machine. Mitski thought she’d beaten it, she thought that she was now successful enough to finally relax and live life how she pleased. But no. She is still the working class, and the ruling class expect her to provide them with the capital that she will only see a small percentage of. You can’t just live under capitalism, you have to prove your worth as a human being by providing as much commodities as possible for that tiny minority that happen to own the means of production. This might not be what Mitski was going for – and her record company, part of the Secretly Group, don’t seem like the worst – but ‘Laurel Hell’ sounds like one of the more articulate and intense translations of the wider planet’s general dejection with this society that’s been forced upon us.

What I never want to hear though – and that often seems the dejected shrug of my generation at least (though Gen Z seem to be far more plugged in and far better at fighting against it) – is that, sigh, dude, there’s just nothing I can do. Yes, there absolutely motherfucking is. If you’re dissolution stems from the belief that all the major parties are actually just slightly different takes on neoliberal capitalism only really divided on whether drag queens should get the death penalty (and even then only slightly), then I’m here to tell you…

…you’re absolutely right. But you know these major parties are only major parties because lots of people vote for them, right? You realise that not voting for them is a pretty weak option considering you could actually support a party that represents your views? I’m not saying it has to be your local Communist Party (but, yeah, that’s a good idea innit? Read ‘Britain’s Road to Socialism‘ and see if you can find a single thing you disagree with. It’s a freaking audiobook now, so you lightweights have no excuse), but join and promote whatever party you feel actually aligned with, bolster their membership, spread their word, tell your friends. Why is it only ever right wing parties like UKIP and BNP that ever get national movements behind them? Well, yes, because capitalism in decay always tends towards fascism and the rich are obviously going to head in that direction first, but also because the left in the UK still kids itself that the fucking Labour Party is working in its best interests!

Is this an immediate solution? No, and although revolution is always the goal the number of people properly engaged isn’t quite there yet. Maybe it won’t even be in our (the Millennial fat knackers) lifetime, maybe we are planting trees under whose shade we will never sit. But if more people start planting those trees, then the forest fire of Capitalism grows ever closer.


2018 #5

2016 #63

Jesus, a real ‘yo-yo artist’. I saw Mitski live in 2018 and it completely intensified my love for that album. I had tickets for her this year, but… didn’t go. There’s the explanation?

Metacritic: 83

2 thoughts on “#38 Mitski: Laurel Hell

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