Mitski’s seventh album, “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” was a project that the world nearly missed out on. The album follows “Laurel Hell,” which coincided with Mitski contemplating retirement, and similar to the surprise of the release of the album itself, Mitski embraces a new sound throughout the album that pushes beyond the synth-pop-centric sound of “Laurel Hell.”
“The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” is, to date, Mitski’s most natural sounding album. The tracks are largely backed by acoustic guitar, piano, and an orchestra, lending the album a soft, organic sound that has been lacking from the pop-overloaded “Be the Cowboy” and “Laurel Hell.” This sound creates a chilling balance with Mitski’s vocals, with the two never overpowering each other but rather mingling seamlessly together, putting the album’s poetically heartbreaking lyrics at the forefront. While the album is new territory for Mitski, sonically speaking, “Valentine, Texas,” the introductory song of “Laurel Hell,” holds many similarities to the tracks found on “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” allowing it to serves as the best precursor of what to expect from Mitski’s latest songs.
Thematically, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” holds many similarities to its predecessor, “Laurel Hell.” Both albums have a central theme of love and explore ideas surrounding darkness and melancholy. Whereas “Laurel Hell” was composed of songs exploring love in various lights and aspects, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” focuses more on the general ideas of love and loving. This emphasis is best seen with tracks such as “My Love Mine All Mine,” which focuses on the idea of our love being the only thing that truly belongs to us, “I Love Me After You,” “Star,” and “Heaven.” This album’s exploration of love isn’t as melancholic as that of its predecessor and instead shows glimpses of the warmth and happiness that can be found in love. While the album doesn’t embrace this happiness fully, the reality of love being out there is clearly illustrated.
Beyond love, the album explores loneliness with tracks like “The Frost,” hope with “Buffalo Replaced,” painful memories and things we wish to forget with “When Memories Snow,” and self-destruction and community with “Bug Like an Angel.” Each song masterfully blends the natural acoustic and orchestral elements of the album with Mitski’s poetically devastating lyricism to truly make their themes burrow down to your core — where they then take root and leave an imprint upon your soul. That resonating sorrow is a hallmark of Mitski, who is exceptionally talented at capturing the type of pain that lingers through all the sunny days and good times.
There is one track that stands above the rest, perfectly capturing the album’s themes, striking emotional chords I didn’t even know existed, and just utterly leaving me without the proper words to capture its majestic beauty. “I’m Your Man” is about the power we are given when someone loves us and how that power can destroy them. This main theme of the track is best seen in the lyrics “You believe me like a god / I’ll destroy you like I am.”
Further, the song explores the darker themes sprinkled throughout the album, with its final lyrics being “I’ll betray you like a man.” “I’m Your Man” also encapsulates the album’s very title “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We.” The final lyric points to us as inhospitable humans, and immediately following the last lyric, the song descends into a mix of bird calls, dogs barking, and crickets chirping, truly embracing the sounds of the land. “I’m Your Man” is the cherry on top of the melancholic sundae that is “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We.”