Mitski, Big Thief, and more: February new music

Celie Kreilkamp, Co-Editor

Mitski: Laurel Hell

Mitski Miyawaki has garnered critical acclaim for her intricately crafted, poetic music, and her dedicated fanbase was thrilled at the release of Laurel Hell, her sixth album, on February 4th. This album was a somewhat striking departure from Mitski’s past releases. Her tragic, brooding lyrics are still there, but this time they are accompanied by almost ironically peppy pop synths. The lead single “Working for the Knife” captures this: “I used to think I’d be done by twenty/Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same,” Mitski says of her conflicting feelings about the music industry and her identity as a bit of an internet sad-girl icon. That common denominator of Mitski’s work- lyrics about love, loss and sadness- runs true through Laurel Hell, but Mitski manages to plunge into pop in a way that works really well. “That’s where you loved me,” she repeats as the bright guitar and trumpets of “That’s Our Lamp,” an almost painfully catchy earworm about the death of a relationship, fade into the background. Laurel Hell breaks the mold that Mitski felt confined by and makes it clear that genre is not the limiting factor for this powerful songwriter.  

Orville Peck: Bronco: Chapter 1

Orville Peck, the internet’s favorite cowboy, is back again with Bronco: Chapter 1. Peck’s work is distinct, marked by deep vocals and an enigmatic indie rock-country blend that both honors and pokes fun at western outlaw music. “Daytona Sand” is an exciting standout from this collection of four songs- its galloping beat and emphatic lyrics build to a chorus that feels like driving down a desert highway with the sunroof down. “C’mon Baby, Cry” is a melancholy, nostalgic love song that showcases Peck’s powerful voice. Bronco: Chapter 1 is only Orville Peck’s third official release and already shows the potential of this rising star. 

Saba: Few Good Things 

Chicago rapper Saba released the long-awaited album Few Good Things earlier this month. After a four-year hiatus following the release of his 2018 album Care For Me, Few Good Things is an captivating, versatile album. Saba’s lyrics are melodic and let the songs speak for themselves- “One Way or Every Ni***a With a Budget” is carried by a soft drum beat and a flow reminiscent of Mac Miller. “Fearmonger” continues that theme through a fun, syncopated rhythm. Other tracks feel like they belong on a Kendrick Lamar album. Saba and G. Herbo spit out fast, compelling verses about generational trauma on “Survivor’s Guilt” and Pivot Gang lends a hand on “Soldier” to craft wordplay that dances around a catchy hook. Few Good Things is a comforting, introspective, and hard-hitting album that was worth the wait. 

Doja Cat: “Celebrity Skin”

Doja Cat covered Hole’s hit single “Celebrity Skin” in a Taco Bell ad for this year’s Super Bowl. Many fans of Doja were surprised by this energetic rock anthem, but Hole’s Courtney Love gave her seal of approval in a tweet, saying Doja can “add ‘rock goddess’” to her resume. “Celebrity Skin” is a satisfying, brash, retro breath of fresh air for Doja Cat. Her rendition is very similar to the original in terms of instrumentals, but the young rapper’s voice lends itself well to the loud, Avril Lavigne-like guitar and drums of “Celebrity Skin.”

Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the newest release from indie-rock band Big Thief is their best. Dragon (the title is as long as the album is) manages to bring the band’s talents to new heights.  At its heart, it’s about love. Love for everything. “Spud Infinity”, one of the many John Prine-inspired folk tracks on the album, pours out love for mundane and simple things like potatoes, garlic bread, and loving the earth. “Little Things,” a flickering, soulful ode to little moments between lovers, captures the way Adrianne Lenker, the band’s lead singer, tries to comprehend the human experience. It’s in little moments. Lenker has an almost shockingly eloquent writing style: In “Simulation Swarm,” a flood of glittery metaphors pours forth: “Crystal blood like a dream true/a ripple in the wound in wake… you believe, I believe too/that you are the river of light” sings Lenker. But it’s in simple ways that we understand each other and ourselves. “I wanna drop my arms, and take your arms/and walk you to the shore.” What does it mean to live? Big Thief’s fifth album is a masterpiece of songwriting, full of unbridled joy, humor, grief, magic and power that gets as close to the answer of this question as one can: to live is to love.