The indie singer-songwriter explores love in all its forms, against a backdrop of cinematic folk
Mitski has fallen in love. And she’s fallen out of it. She’s been given it, and she’s had it torn away, and she’s mourned it, and she’s celebrated it. On The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We, the singer-songwriter explores all of these states of being, and posits that both in the act and in its absence, love is chaos.
Described by Mitski as her “most American album”, The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We interweaves guitar-led Americana with cinematic strings. Sometimes we are sitting with her around the campsite, sometimes were are meeting her in a romantic-comedy Hollywood dreamscape, but we always hear something raw, real and full of feeling.
There is no typical Mitski sound and the singer has never leaned overwhelmingly into any particular genre. But the intimate, analogue sonics of her seventh album, occasionally imbued with stirring orchestrations and staticky drones, feel easy and natural for her as she pours out her firelight confessions. Album opener, ‘Bug Like An Angel’, reveals to us that she is lonely, dreaming of choirs that echo her cry for “family” and disappear as quickly as they arrive.
The wistful Stevie Nicks-esque ‘I Don’t Like My Mind’ is more explicitly insecure, as Mitski asks not to be left to her own devices and begs, “Please don’t take, take my job from me.” In ‘The Deal’, she elaborates on her self-destructiveness, making a midnight deal to give away her soul in exchange for nothing but the consequences. “I can’t bear to keep it/I’d give it just to give,” she pleads.
Love is a saving grace; a deliverance from herself. String-drenched ‘Heaven’ celebrates an all-consuming love, with fluttering wind lines and triumphant piano. ‘My Love All Mine’ sounds like the song in a 90s romantic comedy that plays mid-movie, when everything has just started to look beautiful. “My baby here on earth showed me what my heart was worth,” croons Mitski over a sultry instrumental. But, as the album’s title suggests, none of this is sustainable – the ending is coded in from the start.
The album’s final four tracks tell a deliberate, chronological story. ‘The Frost’ sees Mitski watch the world turn colder, musing now she has no one to share her musings with. “You’re my best friend,” she sings. “Now I’ve no one to tell how I lost my best friend.” It’s a brutal line. ‘The Frost’ leads into ‘Star’, as Mitski watches the love burn out, travelled far away from her but still brightly visible. ‘Star’ is the album at its most cinematic, building from piano, vocals and an underlying drone to a cacophony of strings and a twinkling synth riff.
A return to Americana arrives in the form of ‘I’m Your Man’, in which Mitski weaves in rumbling beats and dog barks as she confesses, “You believed me like a god/I destroyed you like I am”. The realisation that this may have been the greatest love she’ll ever have hurts as much as the understanding that she had a hand in ruining it.
By closer ‘I Love Me After You’, she’s learning to be kinder to herself – doing her skincare, brushing her hair, drinking water. It’s not a gentle, comfortable ending. Noisy, gritty distortion takes over the track as Mitski vocalises, insistent that her life and home is her own now and she’s happy with that, even whilst her sonics betray her. But it is a hopeful one. Love of all kinds is uncomfortable, but Mitski isn’t afraid to be uncomfortable anymore.