Mitski’s new album explores the intricacies of love in different forms and gives us a glimpse into the artists poetic mind.
It’s been a great year for music. For music-lovers like me, it’s now become more enjoyable than ever to discover new artists and genres as they come. But for this piece, I’ll be talking about an artist who I’m quite familiar with, and whose work I am fond of.
“The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” is Mitski’s seventh recorded studio album. After the commercial success of her fifth and sixth albums – “Be the Cowboy” and “Laurel Hell”- there was much anticipation from fans for this new one. Primarily, fans were excited to see what art direction Mitski would be focusing on here, and what would distinguish it from previous works.
This album consists of 11 songs, sharing the same length as “Laurel Hell”. For someone who has never listened to Mitski before, this album might sound like a moody, “hide under your covers and shut the blinds closed” type album. And while that’s partially true, Mitski has honed in on the complex (and sometimes contradictory) nature of young women in the 21st century.
The album opens with “Bug Like an Angel,” the initial teaser that was released to announce the rest of the album. A gut-punch of a starter, this song explores the thoughts of an alcoholic as they stumble through the darkened streets after one too many drinks.
What’s intriguing about this song is the incredibly clever title, as Mitski explained that she imagined finishing a drink from a glass and holding it up to the light. Looking at it from that perspective, it looks like the bug “is an angel” floating in the sky, or the lights reflecting behind the glass. The next track, “Buffalo Replaced” has a heavier guitar strum with some synth elements at time, while “Bug Like an Angel” has simplistic guitar strums with a gospel choir.
There are three “true love” songs in this album. “Heaven” has folk-rock and country influence in its composition, but its lyrics explore a gentle and soft love. Despite feeling an air of impending doom, Mitski relishes in the small moments she shares with her partner: “As I sip on the rest of the coffee you left. A kiss left of you. Heaven, heaven, heaven.”
“My Love Mine All Mine” might be taken as another ballad for a lover. But Mitski delved deeper into the meaning of this song in her YouTube channel.
“[Loving] is the best thing I ever did,” she said. “Better than any song I’ve written. Any material possession I own. And I wished that after I die, I could at least leave behind this beautiful love in the world.”
“Star” is a song that is bittersweet. It reminisces on an old love that slinks further away, yet continues to shine brightly. Memories that glisten but are forever out of reach. Mitski had written this song years prior and had been saving it for an upcoming album where it could fit into. It had been rewritten several times, but if you’re a fan, you can hear a bit of “Be The Cowboy” (specifically “Pink in the Night”) in it’s arrangement and lyricism.
“I Don’t Like my Mind” explores the mundane life of a young, working woman. She spends half her days alone in her room despite how she hates it, and the other half “working herself to the bone”– a way to stay distracted in this lonesome yet heavy life. Gorging herself on cake during special occasions until she vomits, we see the visceral side of Mitski that’s a signature in her discography: the ugly truth, unmasking mental illness and being a hopeless romantic in a society that doesn’t care for tender human intimacy.
“The Deal” speaks of a person walking down a street at night and hoping to run into a devil so that they may give their soul away. “I’d give just to give” and “take the consequences” of making this deal despite receiving nothing in return. It’s speculated that this person seeks the lack of emotions that comes from giving one’s soul away. Therefore, they’d do anything not to feel, including making a deal with the devil.
“When Memories Snow” explores haunting, saddening and upsetting memories that pile up like snow on the windowsills of one’s mind. Mitski talks about how she finds herself trying to clear this “snow” to continue her everyday tasks. Even after the memories melt, they flow through the pipes, and she hears them at night. There is no escaping the memories that change shape so they can remain.
“The Frost” speaks about the loss of relationships of all forms, though my personal interpretation is that this song refers to friendships and platonic relationships. The persona finds themselves amidst a harsh winter: alone, cold, and unmoving. As this frost “looks like dust,” alluding to the way this person has sat in their depression for who knows how long, wishing they could tell these lost companions of this frost that has overtaken them.
“I’m Your Man” speaks in the voice of a manipulative, toxic man that calls himself a dog yet gets treated like a god. He speaks of how sorry he is for being himself and that no one will ever truly love him. He is afraid that if she leaves, he will have to end his life to end the suffering. This is all trademark gaslighting language. Solidifying the experience of this manipulation, Mitski ends the song with “…You believe me like a god, I’ll betray you like a man”.
“I Love Me After You” is a welcome ending to this album. We’ve gone through a whirlwind of loss and love in so many different forms. This song finds that peace in solitude that the persona had been craving since the beginning. They find themselves indulging in self-care rituals, dancing naked, not caring if the neighbors see. They prove that they’ve become comfortable in their body and no longer need any company to be happy. They crown themselves “king of the land,” no longer needing the company of others to find happiness.
This album, as well as this artist, create music in a way that feels more poetic than most. If you enjoy art pop, experimental music production and emotion-heavy lyricism, I highly recommend this album. “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” is currently out on all streaming services. So, go give it a listen!