(Photo courtesy of: RIFF Magazine) “Mitski explores a complexity of emotions in seventh studio album.”
“The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” has Mitski demonstrating her lyrical brilliance while cutting away some layers of production that those lyrics could hide beneath. Mitski’s newest album was released on Friday, Sept. 15. The highly anticipated follow-up to 2022’s “Laurel Hell” is a welcome addition to her ever-evolving catalog.
“The Land is Inhospitable” exemplifies Mitski’s ability to handle the emotions she addresses. Each song explores the complexities of emotions, especially love, loss and dealing with one’s past.
The lead track, “Bug Like an Angel,” begins with deliberately played guitar chords, with the occasional accompaniment of piano. Mitski’s voice sits above the instruments during the verses. She delivers some of the most heartbreaking lyrics on this album, including, “When I’m bent over wishin’ it was over / Makin’ all variety of vows I’ll never keep / I try to remember the wrath of the devil / Was also given him by God.” The song discusses family and the distance that can be felt between the people one loves. Mitski finds herself accompanied by a chorus of voices between verses, but the song ends with slow piano chords.
As the piano fades, it is replaced by the down-strummed guitar and driving drum that power “Buffalo Replaced.” Mitski is searching for fleeting joy in a world that is moving at higher speeds and feels more disconnected. She tries to focus on the mosquitos and fireflies, but she is unable to keep away thoughts of freight trains and cars. High piano chords enter with the final post-chorus and her dream-like singing tries to wash away the world of roads and railroads.
A light guitar joins with Mitski singing in a higher key than much of the album in “The Deal.” On a midnight walk, Mitski feels pain within herself, and asks, “Will someone take my soul?” She does not find a reply. Mitski understands there is only one way to lose her soul, but she does not want that as she can’t change the cards she’s been dealt with. Violin joins her in the bridge with a quiet drum. She sees a bird watching her, who says, “Your pain is eased but you’ll never be free.” Drums enter raucously, and the violin picks up. She sings, “There’s a deal that I made.”
These heavier tracks, including “I Don’t Like My Mind” and “The Frost,” are juxtaposed with songs about love. “Heaven” recreates the blissful feeling love can give a person. “My Love Mine All Mine” is one of the highlights of this album. Dreamy guitars, piano and a soft drum back Mitski’s smooth vocals. She can feel the moonlight shining down on her and basks in the light of all those who have and will love her. As the song continues, Mitski asks the moon to shine on those she loves, even after she has passed. Understanding the moon does not shine for her, Mitski says, “Nothing in the world belongs to me / but my love, mine, all mine, all mine.”
However, the last three songs on the album make it clear that some of the people she loved have exited her life. On “The Star,” she says, “That love is like a star / It’s gone, we just see it shinin’.” Gender roles and the pain of being the one who ends a relationship are discussed on “I’m Your Man.” “I Love Me After You” takes place after things have ended. Mitski accepts the way things have gone. She continues with love and confidence that she made the right decision.
The album’s lyrics are meant to be listened to on repeat. The album’s 32-minute run time lends itself to this, while the album’s production gives her words the spotlight.
Mitski has risen to the challenge of rising expectations. Her exit from music, after the tour of 2018’s “Be The Cowboy,”has paid dividends. The fan pressure to only make music they can cry to is clearly felt, but she refuses to lose claim or control over her art. Mitski delivers another powerful album that feels fresh, and she has done so on her terms.