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Mitski’s New Album is Incredible and So is She

No one was expecting Mitski to release new music so soon. The 33-year-old indie sensation has been putting out records since her junior year of college in 2012, and 2018’s Be The Cowboy made her one of the biggest names in the indie music scene. Her follow-up, Laurel Hell, was released in 2022 after two long years of near radio silence from Mitski and eager anticipation from her fans. The lead single of Laurel Hell is about Mitski’s disillusionment with the music industry, and interviews and press from the era implied an impending retirement. So when she announced her seventh album The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, it was hard to believe the news. With the release of the lead single, Mitski explained in an email that despite her struggles with fame and the music industry, her love for the craft motivated her to renegotiate a contract with Dead Oceans and keep producing albums. Mitski’s love, in fact, motivates the entirety of The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We. The album, which blends Mitski’s characteristic indie rock with folk and Americana influences, is all about love—its various forms and measures, its highs and lows, and most importantly, how it perseveres despite everything.


The lead single “Bug Like an Angel,” opens the album with a dismal picture, describing the perspective of an individual struggling with alcoholism and regret. The song is intentionally disquieting, beginning with a lonely acoustic guitar and Mitski’s haunting vocals. Around a minute in, a choir suddenly joins, abruptly startling the listener—as Mitski explained in a “Behind the Song” video posted to her YouTube, “You know I love jumpscares in my songs.” “Bug Like an Angel” paints the picture of a life without love, as Mitski sings about alcohol being the only thing she’s close to—in her words, “sometimes a drink feels like family.”


“Heaven,” one of the pre-release singles, contrasts this bleakness by depicting the euphoric beauty of love. “Heaven” is an expression of love that feels like floating on Cloud Nine. She sings about bending like a willow and curving like a brook, using natural comparisons to describe the purity of her infatuation. Even just the residue of her lover’s lips on a coffee cup is enough to feel elated. Mitski employed a full orchestra in creating The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, and it is used beautifully in “Heaven,” creating a dreamy, romantic aura that serves to further accentuate the song’s meaning.


“My Love Mine All Mine” has an enticing, sultry sound, jazzy and intoxicating. Mitski’s velvety vocals and the subtle yet cinematic instrumentation transport the listener to a dimly lit 1950s cabaret bar on a shadowy corner of an urban neighborhood. In the song, Mitski croons about how she wishes to send her love to the moon so that it may shine down on her lover, even when she’s gone. Even if she has nothing else, she has her love, which is the most important thing of all. She wants it to leave a mark and shine like the moon in the sky, the light in the dark.


“Star,” another pre-release single, lives up to its title in feeling cosmic and otherworldly. In “Star,” Mitski describes her fondness for a lost love. Dead stars continue to shine for millions of years after they’re gone, and Mitski wishes the same for her past romance. Though their love is gone, it still has value through the lessons she learned and the joy she experienced. Since love is so important and powerful, Mitski believes it should never be fully discarded—as she asks in the song, “Isn’t that worth holding on?”


“I’m Your Man” is a reckoning of sorts, as Mitski reflects on a failing relationship, describing how her lover placed her on a pedestal, only for Mitski to let them down. A rough guitar and tense percussion underscore her remarks on feeling inadequate and undeserving of the love she has received. As established throughout the album, love is invigorating, transformative, and invaluable, so Mitski’s feelings of unworthiness show the depth of her self-loathing. The second verse transitions into an atmosphere of fear, as the production becomes sharper and edgier and Mitski describes the impending doom of “judgment by the hounds.” What she fears is others discovering her true, disappointing self. Mitski doesn’t know why things are going wrong—she’s been treated with love all her life, so she doesn’t understand why it’s failing her now. “I’m Your Man” closes with the sounds of dogs barking, crickets chirping, and a distant yell, creating an eerie, unsettling environment that reflects Mitski’s inner turmoil.



The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We ends with “I Love Me After You,” which brings a new dimension to the album’s primary theme. Accompanied by thundering drums and a steady guitar riff, Mitski discovers a new kind of love—her love for herself. She treats herself with care and roams around her house naked, without a worry in the world. She embraces the darkness of the night and starts calling herself “king of all the land” as the backing instrumentals become brasher, louder, and fuller. The album’s title suggests that the land she’s now king of is inhospitable, but perhaps, it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe, with the love Mitski knows is so valuable, she can make the land that is hers a comforting, welcoming one, and most importantly, a loving place to be.



Photo Credit: Dead Oceans


The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We is a beautiful examination of the necessity of love in the human experience. Through its 11-track journey, Mitski demonstrates how love—for others and for yourself—is truly all you need. Of course, love is not always simple, and it’s easy to fall into cynicism, weakness, and self-deprecation. But, as Mitski shows, love allows us to overcome those feelings and makes life worth living.


Rating: INDY

 

Meggy Mani is a Freshman in the College planning on majoring in Government.

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