Review: A glance at the work of Mitski

Writer assesses albums of rumored-to-retire indie-rock artist Mitski


Nora Vedder

In a digitally constructed image is a indie rock artist, Mitski surrounded by the covers of her six album releases. Mitski first released music in 2012 with her first album, “Lush.” Following her most recent release from 2022, “Laurel Hell,” rumors and speculation spread of Mitski no longer producing music.

Nora Vedder, Reporter

After releasing her first two albums, indie rock artist Mitski quickly gained popularity due to the melancholy tone of her music, which pulled at the heartstrings of listeners. After releasing her album “Be the Cowboy” in 2018, she took a break from the music industry, later releasing her most recent album, “Laurel Hell,” in 2022.

After going on tour throughout 2022, Mitski is taking a longer break from music, with rumors of “Laurel Hell” being her final album. With the potential end of her musical career, I decided to review each of her albums.


“Lush” was Mitski’s first album release, which she released in late 2012. Some well-known songs from this album are “Liquid Smooth” and “Brand New City.” Many of the songs in this album convey themes surrounding a desire for validation, self-image, relationship struggles and gender norms. This album was released as a part of a project when Mitski was studying studio composition in college. Most of the songs were presumably written when she was 18, making “Lush” one of the big marks of the start of her career. The instrumentals and lyrics of each song are intense and are filled with raw emotion from Mitski. As most of her songs do, a majority of the songs in Lush cover negative feelings surrounding relationships. While this is not one of Mitski’s most popular releases, it showcases the early days of her work, holding so much emotion with each line.

Retired from Sad, New Career in Business

Not too long after her first album, Mitski self-released another album in 2013, “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business.” Mitski released the album in her senior year of college as her final project, with each song featuring orchestral elements contributed by her school’s student orchestra. Some well-known songs on the album are “Class of 2013,” “Strawberry Blonde” and “I Want You.” The orchestral elements in the songs received praise from her audience, despite the album being her least popular. Similar to “Lush,” the album explores fears of intimacy and growing up. A prime example of this theme is “Class of 2013,” which conveys the stress of becoming an adult in the “real world” and longing for the safety of childhood again. Despite the title claiming to have been “retired from sad,” many of the songs have a melancholy feel to them, and when paired with the orchestral elements makes for poetic songs, they convey the themes in a way that evokes emotion in listeners.

Bury Me at Makeout Creek

One of her more popular albums, “Bury Me at Makeout Creek”, was released in 2014 and was Mitski’s first album with the label Double Double Whammy Don Giovani Records. Her most popular songs from this album, “First Love/Late Spring” and “Francis Forever,” are in her top five songs, according to Spotify. “First Love/Late Spring” is currently ranked as her second most popular song. The album as a whole builds off of themes in her prior album, which is a common theme with her releases. The album has songs that explore the hardships of youth, hopes for the future and the hopelessness of death. “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” speaks to a teenage audience, as the “angst-y” theme of growing up is something many teens find themselves being able to relate to. Mitski’s popularity with a younger audience has recently grown, and I think that it is because so many adolescents and teens are able to find comfort and relatability within the sadder, more realistic lyrics about life found in Mitski’s songs, particularly in this album.

Puberty 2

Moving from a feeling of youth to songs about facing adulthood head on, “Puberty 2” was released in 2016. The album was released with the album with the label Dead Oceans, which she used for the rest of her releases. “Puberty 2” is one of her more melancholy releases. At this point in her life, Mitski was gaining more popularity for her music, resulting in more interviews, with the spotlight on her. Song themes range from broken romances, falling into depression, the anxiety of public attention and just trying to live day by day. Her most well known song on the album, “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” explores the theme of broken romances. Many of the songs in this album have a tone that feels sadder than the albums prior. Fans have noticed that this album is a sign of Mitski starting to become tired with the music industry and how much of a drain it took on her life. Mitski has expressed that she loves her fans and performing, but the pressure of the music industry has been very stressful for her.

Be the Cowboy

Likely her most popular album release, “Be the Cowboy,” released in 2018, holds three songs in Mitski’s top five listened songs on Spotify. Her song “Nobody” is currently her #1 song. Her other two popular songs on the album are “Washing Machine Heart” and “Me and my Husband.” The album was also nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Recording Package.” The album explores the idea of how people are supposed to be emotional and that independence can often lead to loneliness. The song “Nobody,” in my opinion, is the best example of this idea. The song surged in popularity during the pandemic, since many found the song relatable as the song is about feeling alone and isolated. Other songs on the album continue with the melancholy view of love, which “Washing Machine Heart” and “Me and My Husband” are well known for. The album is her most popular, and currently the slow, sad songs with touching lyrics that many find themselves relating to, is what people seem to love most about this album, and associate Mitski’s work with.

Laurel Hell 

Rumored to be her final album to ever be released, “Laurel Hell” came to Spotify in 2022. The album took three years to record, as Mitski started recording in 2019, but COVID-19 quarantines caused problems with the production. A few months prior to her release of the album, Mitski released her song “Working for the Knife,” a song about feeling weighed down by the production industry. Many of the songs throughout this album explore similar themes to her previous releases, but the instrumentals of the songs are more upbeat in comparison. Her lyrics are still somber, but the music itself is portrayed in a way that comes off as happier. Many fans disliked the change in tone for her music, as the slow, melancholy feel was what drew so many people towards Mitski in the first place. I personally like this album, as I feel it is Mitski trying a different style, but still conveying her emotions the way she always has. Being that it is her most recent release, it is far from being unknown by fans, but the feelings about this album are the most mixed.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Mitski is known for her slow, melancholy lyrics and exploring different anxieties. I think what draws people to Mitski’s work is the fact that it is sad music that many people can find themselves relating to. Mitski uses music to express herself, mainly different anxieties she has about life. People who are fans of Mitski find that when they listen to her music, they may not be alone with the fears they have. Mitski portrays emotions in a very “real” way, and by that, I mean she doesn’t really sugar coat things. Sadness is something that everyone experiences in their lives, but Mitski’s music can be a way that people find themselves relating to more easily.

Mitski has brought comfort to so many people, but her career with music may be coming to a close due to how demanding the industry is. Whether Mitski decides to continue releasing music or end her releases, her work can be comforting and can be very relatable for many people. If you are unfamiliar with Mitski’s work, I highly suggest you listen to her music. While sad music is not for everyone, Mitski produces her work in a way that helps make others feel seen.

Editor’s Note: Be careful. Some of the music linked is explicit and may be blocked on the school’s WiFi.