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Mitski Cuts Sharp and Sure With ‘Working for the Knife’

The singer-songwriter returns to the spotlight after a two-year hiatus, sounding wiser than ever

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In September 2019, Mitski played a final show in Central Park (with Lucy Dacus as an opener, no less) before embarking on an extended hiatus and going completely dark on social media. Two years, 26 days, and a global pandemic later, she’s returned with “Working For the Knife,” a track that arrives with the kind of energy that tosses you back in your scarlet theater seat and keeps you nervously eating popcorn, licking the salt the same way Mitski licks the staircase at 2:08 in the video.

Let’s put aside the music for just a second and focus on that video, a strangely compelling short film starring a reluctant performer returning to the spotlight. Mitski waltzes through the eerily empty corridors of the Egg, a landmark brutalist venue in Albany, in a cowboy hat and royal blue silk, engaging in her signature slow-dance choreography before winding back up on the stage. “I used to think I would tell stories,” she admits. “But nobody cared for the stories/I had about/No good guys.”

Which brings us to the song itself. “Working for the Knife” orbits around synths and dense guitar with the kind of subtly menacing beat that’s always made her so sonically alluring. She’s returned sharper and wiser than ever, grappling with age and the responsibility that comes with her career as one of indie rock’s foremost artists: “I used to think I’d be done by 20/Now at 29 the road ahead appears the same/Though maybe at 30 I’ll see a way to change/That I’m living for the knife.”

The knife metaphor is nothing new; the single is practically a sequel to Be the Cowboy‘s “Blue Light,” where she sang “Out there I’m a sharp knife/Are you that blue light?” But Mitski isn’t asking anymore — she knows that if anyone is that blue light, it’s her.

“It’s about going from being a kid with a dream, to a grown up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind,” Mitski said of the track. “It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognize your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.”

“Working for the Knife” is Mitski’s first new music following Be the Cowboy. She’ll return to the road early next year, working for the knife and — hopefully — touring behind a new album.

Mitski spring tour dates 

2/17 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
2/18 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz
2/19 – Atlanta, GA @ The Eastern
2/21 – Birmingham, AL @ Iron City
2/22 – New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre
2/24 – Houston, TX @ The Lawn at White Oak Music Hall
2/25 – Dallas, TX @ The Factory in Deep Ellum
2/26 – Austin, TX @ ACL Live at Moody Theater
2/28 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
3/3 – Los Angeles, CA @ Shrine Exposition Hall
3/4 – Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
3/7 – Portland, OR @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
3/9 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre
3/12 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
3/14 – St. Paul, MN @ Palace Theatre
3/15 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Riverside Theater
3/17 – Detroit, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre
3/18 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall
3/19 – Montreal, QC @ St-Jean-Baptiste Church
3/21 – Boston, MA @ TBD
3/24 – New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall
3/25 – Philadelphia, PA @ Franklin Music Hall
3/26 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem
3/29 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
3/30 – Louisville, KY @ Old Forester’s Paristown Hall
3/31 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium

From Rolling Stone US