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Mitski returns crestfallen on the gruesome yet fantastical The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

"The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We"

Release date: 15 September 2023
Mitskit The Land Is Inhospitable cover
13 September 2023, 09:00 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

Mitski’s seventh album is the first of a new and exciting album “duology”.

In an interview, Mitski recounted the time when producer Patrick Hyland realised something unprecedented about her creative process: her albums, sonically and thematically, come in pairs, each portraying a specific chapter of her life. Lush (2012) and Retired From Sad, New Career in Business (2013), for example, were both written when she was in college and laced with the affliction of adulthood and unachievable dreams. Her newest record – on which she admitted that she “pulled a Fiona Apple” title – doesn’t seem to deviate from this pattern, as she explores a soundscape that has previously been left untouched in her discography, namely the sounds of America.

The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We borrows the instrumental approach of American film soundtracks and country music. With songs so rooted in the sunlit canyons and arid plains, this is indeed her “most American” output. “Buffalo Replaced” is a low-spirited, simplified imitation of country rock. “I Don’t Like My Mind” takes inspiration from a gentler kind, with which she juxtaposes her throttled outcry of wanting to continue making music amidst censure (“Please don’t take this job from me!”). This music of the Wild Wild West reassesses her stance on life and romance, posing a curious inquiry into her existence and virtue.

It’s a dreadful yet inevitable undertaking. For a person whose writing has always been a device for the brooding examination of self-devaluation and writhing loneliness, “what” isn’t the applicable question anymore – but “why”, the form from which she can truly gain answers. “The Deal”, the narrative track that first introduces a familiar dynamic to the album, ploughs into her cavernous soul in search of a cause for this chronic pain. “I want someone to take this soul,” she confesses, “I can’t bear to keep it.” “Bug Like an Angel”, her most sombre opener yet, explores her addiction similarly, hence the conclusion: “The wrath of the devil was also given him by God.”

Drew Erickson, who has helped construct the music of Lana Del Rey and Father John Misty, composes the angelic and emotive orchestra on The Land Is Inhospitable. “Heaven”, the deceptively happiest love song of her career, depicts fleeting romance – with the awestruck eloquence of a doomed poet – that’s bound to be girded up in sheaves: it won’t last. The pedal steel, flute, violins, and synths provide an ethereal facade that, from a viewpoint, conversely makes it a gloomy and gruesome listen. The Land Is Inhospitable is like this – it contains both her gentlest, most fantastical production and her saddest, most miserable lyrics.

The commendable combination, as well as the new musical directions, reestablishes her artistic identity the same way Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Be the Cowboy did. This time, she is a crestfallen wanderer in a desolate desert, looking for bygone felicity. Loss and memory have never wounded her this badly. Most songs, notably “The Frost” (which might be about the death of a close friend) and “I’m Your Man”, sound like dirges for a lifeless spirit that awaits its decay. “So when you leave me, I should die / I deserve it, don’t I?” While the judicial hounds lurch towards her, a haunting revelation arises as the parting words: love, like villains in the films she references, never wins after all.

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