When Mitski’s sixth album arrives on Feb. 4, 2022, it will break the longest silence of the acclaimed singer/songwriter’s career. Needless to say, Laurel Hell is one of our most-anticipated releases of the impending new year, and today (Dec. 7) brings our latest preview of the album: “Heat Lightning,” its third single after “Working for the Knife” and “The Only Heartbreaker,” is accompanied by an animated lyric video created by Alex Moy.
Mitski says in a statement that, for her new album, she “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.” “Heat Lightning” makes its home in that space, a subdued, contemplative track that brings Mitski’s bittersweet rumination to the forefront. The singer both describes insomnia in her lyrics (“Heat lightning / Running outside the window / I’ve laid awake since 1 and now it’s 4 o’clock”) and evokes it with her instrumentation: Laurel Hell producer Patrick Hyland contributes sparse guitars, synths and percussion, balancing an insistent R&B groove with downcast brooding. Mitski finds beauty in giving in to something larger than herself, singing, “There’s nothing I can do / Not much I can change / I give it up to you / I surrender,” and personifying the heavens themselves: “Heat lightning / Watch it from my doorstep / Sleeping eyelid of the sky / Flutters in a dream.” It’s a serene union of intimate human emotion and natural phenomena, the kind of music that makes you appreciate the very ground beneath your feet.
Just yesterday (Dec. 6), Paste ranked Mitski’s “Working for the Knife” among 2021’s best songs. You’ll surely find Laurel Hell on our list of the most exciting 2022 releases in the coming weeks. Fans share in our excitement about Mitski’s return to the spotlight: Her upcoming North American tour is entirely sold out.
Watch Mitski’s “Heat Lightning” video and revisit her 2015 Daytrotter session below.