I didn’t even want to review this album. There was no explanation or reason for why Mitski’s newest, Laurel Hell, gave me such a naturally electric feeling. I just wanted that pure enjoyment of a piece of art. No reason behind it, it just exists for your enjoyment. But that joy could never just be yours. The joys of music is ultimately sharing it with others. For instance, could you genuinely believe that the greatest musician that ever lived just played in his basement until his untimely death? No. Well, probably not. I know what you’re thinking now. Why do I care about this random kid’s Ambien™ ramblings?*
*(This Music Reviewer Does Not Really Take Ambien™)
Laurel Hell is an ode to synth-heavy 80s power ballads from arguably one of the most modern artists of this generation. It’s not very hard to get swept up in the energy behind the sorrow and dark confusion that Mitski flourishes onto tracks so effortlessly. Trying to understand is like trying to step into her shoes.
The type of love she’s suffering from is more like a whirlwind of emotions, synths, self-doubt, and drums that feel all-consuming. It’s so much easier to just let yourself go to that all-consuming type of love. Sitting with it, trying to understand it is a different beast entirely. By the end of this entire half hour LP, Mitski has sat with the beast. Something tells me she won’t stay with it though. She’ll walk back into the tornado, as most do. Make more music that makes us feel like we live in the Footloose town.
So thank you Mitski. Thank you for making us an album that makes me feel like Kevin Bacon from the acclaimed Footloose.
old dog, new tricks
Speaking of one of the most modern artists of this generation, glaive’s third solo EP old dog, new tricks (fourth if you count his collaboration with label-mate ericdoa) is another step towards greatness by the 17 year old. Despite making his name in the roots of the underground hyperpop scene, glaive has always made music leaning more towards the increasingly popular genre of pop punk (something keenly identified by reps of Interscope Records who picked him up in early 2021). It’s hard to gauge if glaive has really changed his style. I’d argue he’s simply refined it with the resources provided to him by such a big label.
As hyperpop trends increasingly downwards back into an underground genre, you see a surprising lack of toxicity towards those who rode the wave into a deal of a lifetime. No one really “sold out” or “pop-ified” their sound into something radically different, it’s something that naturally came out of the genre when you filter people who already made pop-leaning music. There’s a reason no one gave big deals to guys like Misakuu Fox or emotegi despite them having the same knack for incredibly catchy songs, except with an electronic twist. Anyway, that’s life. I know what you’re thinking now. Why do I care about this random kid’s Xanax™ ramblings?*
* (This Music Reviewer Does Not Really Take Xanax™)
Like I said somewhere in that long-winded take on hyperpop, old dog, new tricks is more of a refinement than anything. Glaive is an immensely talented artist who has new hooks and bridges pouring out of him effortlessly. Alone, those ideas only stay as little loops tucked away in a hard drive. But, given time and creativity, he’s created a project and a half (it seems like there’s an outro in the middle of the EP and five extra songs tagged on after).
The beats vary in style but eventually circle back to revolve around the bouncy hooks that glaive is so known for. Although sometimes there does feel like a lack of coherency throughout the album, it’s important to acknowledge glaive made his name on purely singles. So at some point you get the feeling he’s just throwing these slightly-tweaked pop punk songs against a wall of tik tok listeners to see what sticks and brings the most engagement. But that’s a cynical way to think of it. When you follow a Mitski album, it’s kind of hard to stand up to it and bring the same “umphf”. As glaive matures into the man and artist he’ll become, he’ll experiment and develop into a defining artist of his own generation.
This album was released a few months ago. But it’s still fair game in my eyes, it almost seemed like Mitski delayed her album so it didn’t have to compete with the rightful owner of 2021’s Best Synthpop Album — Black Marble’s Fast Idol. This was my first introduction to Chris Stewart — the real name behind the (admittedly much cooler) stage name “Black Marble”.
The project takes no time to enter what I call “bobblehead territory”. Hypnotic is an understatement and it seems as if Stewart takes every instrumental opportunity to lure you in. Songs feel like stories that ebb and flow and take their time. Sometimes I’ll forget his voice is actually saying words, it’s more the way he says them that gives them their shape and meaning. It’s almost as if every instrument, voice, effect, etc. is a liquid being poured in to fill a shape of what the song eventually ends up being about. That might be romanticized but this type of music will fill up anyone’s heart. Like I said in the Mitski review, this type of music just feels natural. Like it’s god given.I don’t know man. I know what you’re thinking now. Why do I care about this random kid’s Morphine™ ramblings?*
*(This Music Reviewer Does Really Take Morphine™)
There are somber parts to this album but the nature of the genre makes them feel like you’re simply moving onto better things. There’s this innate positivity to the swing that Steward brings to his music and a hopefulness that shines through every story. And it’s not just the drum fills, it’s deeper than that. Maybe it’s the Morphine™. Love that sweet sweet Morphine. I think I’ll nod off now. Good album.