Last month, Mitski announced Laurel Hell, one of 2022’s most anticipated releases, out February 4th via Dead Oceans, in advance of her entirely sold out North American tour. Today, she unveils an arresting new single, “Heat Lightning,” with an animated lyric video created by Alex Moy
For Laurel Hell, Mitski “needed songs that could help me forgive both others and myself...I needed to create this space mostly for myself where I sat in that gray area.” As with all the songs on Laurel Hell, “Heat Lightning” embodies that space. Initially written on piano before blossoming into a sensual R&B direction halfway through, it’s a hypnotic, melancholy ode to insomnia and the “sleeping eyelid of the sky.” Throughout, Mitski admits, "And there’s nothing I can do // Not much I can change // Can I give it up to you // Would that be okay? // There’s nothing I can do // Not much I can change // I give it up to you // I surrender."
Mitski wrote many of the songs comprising Laurel Hellduring or before 2018, and the album was finished being mixed in May 2021. It is the longest span of time Mitski has ever spent on a record, and a process that concluded amid a radically changed world. Once again produced by longtime collaborator Patrick Hyland, the album as a whole evolved “to be more uptempo and dance-y. I needed to create something that was also a pep talk.” As championed in the album’s first two singles “The Only Heartbreaker” and “Working for the Knife,” the tension that emerges between her refined but plaintive lyrics and the effervescent 1980s sound delivers nuanced profundity on a current of contagious dance beats.
Laurel Hell is a soundtrack for transformation, a map to the place where vulnerability and resilience, sorrow and delight, error and transcendence can all sit within our humanity, can all be seen as worthy of acknowledgment, and ultimately, love. It cements Mitski’s reputation as an artist who possesses the power of turning our most savage and alienated experiences into the very elixir that cures them. “I wrote what I needed to hear. As I’ve always done.”