Fresh from the oven, the initial thought that popped into my mind after listening to Mitski’s newest record was: “This is dense.”
Not in a condescending way, though. More so emotionally dense in all the right hard-hitting ways.
“The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We” is a record that, I believe, prides itself on telling cohesive yet multifaceted tales of humankind. Whether it be alcoholism, a gone love, free will, or a plethora of other subjects—it all comes together as an exploration and ultimately acceptance of the self.
The rollout started on July 26, with the album opener: Bug Like An Angel. Now, I can’t say I’ve dabbled in alcohol (I’m a minor), but I still think the whole song encapsulates a certain feeling. The regret of past mistakes, realizing the false promises you made and loathing where you are now. The way the choir comes in to chime “FAMILY” is a whole epiphany on its own, albeit it frightened my fragile heart since I had it on full volume the first time around.
Unanticipatedly, the whole album is sprinkled with swelling moments like the latter. The howlings of a dog on I’m Your Man, the bumbling drums on The Deal, the end of I Love Me After You…
In this record, Mitski departs the 80s synth pop-infused production of her previous album, Laurel Hell, and instead opts for a more stripped-back country-inspired sound with a few twists here and there. Take her third track, Heaven, for instance, with its sweeping strings. Mitski calls it one of her most romantic songs to date and I agree wholeheartedly. Drew Erickson, who has gorgeous works with Lana Del Rey, brings orchestration to the song on a whole other level of tranquillity that accentuates the soulful yearning Mitski describes.
There’s no doubt that Mitski is an ace at constructing raw, picturesque lyrics that resonate with her listeners. To illustrate, Class of 2013, the song on her sophomore album, is one of the most dear songs to me. The worries of growing into adulthood, wishing you could stay at home, chefs kiss. It’s no different with this record.
The record’s penultimate track I’m Your Man is a gritty ballad about failing someone who idolizes you. “You believe me like a god / I destroy you like I am” Then the production ascends into an echoing choir with a dog barking its way in, one of the ‘swelling moments’ I described earlier.
I Don’t Like My Mind has Mitski singing about the intrusive thoughts that come to her when alone. She revels in doing all she can to avoid being left to her self-destructive sensibilities. “So, yeah, I blast music loud, and I work myself to the bone… I eat a cake / A whole cake for me”
All deep cuts. But the album, surprisingly, is also filled with plenty of more hopeful tracks. Mirroring how life, although flawed, isn’t always as inhospitable as we think.
The one song that stuck to me, My Love Mine All Mine, is a great example. The lyricism, the production, everything feels mellow. In a behind-the-scenes video, Mitski explained that the whole song is a recognition of love. “To love is the best thing I ever did,” she acknowledged. Really, at its core, it’s about how when all the physical things are stripped away from us, the only thing that exists is our love. Pure undying love, whoever it be for. And it’s the crux of what the whole record is trying to say.
That there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
As of now, I’m still unsure where this record sits compared to her others. I love it tremendously, but I don’t want to get a cold case of recency bias. Truthfully though, I think we should simply appreciate Mitski’s art now for what it is, rather than compare it to her earlier works.
Besides, who am I, a random teenager, to judge? This record is all hers, and perhaps what the art means to the artist is what’s the most important quality at the end of the day.