“The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” – Mitski Album Review
Written by mccormacke1 on September 24, 2023
Review by Jake Roseboro
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is the 5th studio album from singer/songwriter Mitski. A hasty follow up to the solid 2022 LP, Laurel Hell. Although pulverizing amongst fans, Laurel Hell proved to be one of my more favorable albums of that year and another solid entry into a catalog that I quite enjoyed. Mitski became a favorite among many female listeners and has now become a household name. I caught the bandwagon after Be the Cowboy dropped in 2018. Now I await each release of hers with enthusiastic anticipation.
The general public seemed to share my view up until the release of this record. Just a year and a half ago I recall so many people eagerly awaiting Laurel Hell. It was an event album that would serve as a landmark for the year of 2022. However, after its release, that reputation began to sour. Not by a significant amount of course, but Mitski did lose a good chunk of her mainstream crowd. I wasn’t even aware that her new record was in the works until I saw its cover in the back half of Apple Music’s new releases page.
I believe Mitski may have flown a bit too close to the sun, and wanted to return to what made her special in the first place. The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is a refined, cathartic, and hauntingly gorgeous project. I oddly found myself smiling throughout the entire record, mainly because I felt Mitski had reached her true potential. The instrumentation is on an entirely different level, the production fit like a glove, and the lyrical content was incredibly moving. There is so much to love in this short, 35 minute album.
Immediately, I felt a major uptick in quality on the record opener “Bugs Like An Angel.” Mitski felt brutally honest and elegant on this moving track. The subtlety of the guitar work paired with excellent production choices make this a blissful listen. Returning to a more stripped back sound not only benefited this track, but the entire project.
“Heaven” is another highlight that comes to us earlier in the album. Sounding like something you would hear in a classic 1940s film; the elegance and grace of the song make it an ethereal listen. Each word hits with so much power. Mitski has never sounded as thoughtful or romantic as this. I am especially fond of the orchestral tinges she added to the mix on this track. They aren’t too overpowering and sweep into the verses quite well.
The quieter, haunting moments are something we haven’t seen from her in a while. The synth pop driven Laurel Hell was a welcomed addition, but we lost a part of what made Mitski so special in the first place: Her ability to draw emotion from subtly. The sounds on This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We draw from simpler times. They capture a specific feeling of summer coming to a close and moving onto the next stage of your life. Reflection and moving forward are key lyrical themes that struck a chord with me instantly. Going through a transitional period in your life is incredibly difficult, and coming to terms with who you truly are is inevitable. That feeling of acceptance can be felt on tracks like “I Don’t Like My Mind” and “When Memories Snow.” Both are incredibly moving and showcase how she can pull at your heartstrings without being overbearing or melodramatic.
On each of her releases, Mitski’s sincerity is what draws people in. Her ability to be completely upfront with who she is, and the raw power of that genuineness leads to excellent songwriting. Knowing when to let loose on tracks like “Buffalo Replaced” and “Star,” and knowing when to scale things back on moments like “Frost” or on song of the year candidate “I’m Your Man.” The range of Mitski’s reach is still apparent on this new record and showcases how versatile of a musician she is.
The main issue I had with Laurel Hell was its inability to utilize her unique voice. Her vocals have always been a selling point, but on that album I felt it was lost in the production. The synths would overpower her gentle vocals, creating a less than favorable clash of sounds.
On this record however, the airy and stripped back mixing lets her voice float throughout each track. Not taking center stage, but collaborating with each element of the instrumentation. “I’m Your Man” draws you in with its playful guitar work, reeling you into the track’s somber mood. Then, Mitski’s vocal delivery elevates the track into something more hopeful, thought-provoking. Telling the story of a relationship reaching its natural conclusion, from the perspective of a lousy male partner. He is reflecting on his treatment of his partner, choosing to be honest with the situation and admitting his misgivings. This track was incredibly powerful, and proves how unmatched Mitski truly is in terms of story-telling.
My one and only complaint with this near masterpiece has to be its brevity. Once again, this record only reaches about 35 minutes. It’s quickness undercuts some of its tracklist’s potency. Moments feel more rushed, and tracks conclude before they’ve reached their climax. It’s not a deal-breaking fault and doesn’t hold much water in terms of the record’s quality, but it is still an issue that rears its ugly head on every Mitski album.
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is a testament to who Mitski is as an artist and her capabilities as a songwriter. Even its shortcomings don’t feel relevant in the grand scheme of things and feel like nitpicks compared to its achievements. This is a hauntingly beautiful look into the mental state of an artist who wasn’t quite sure who she wanted to be. It’s an album for the true Mitski fans, and is potential being realized in real time. The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We gets a 5 out of 5.
Favorites: “I’m Your Man,” “Bugs Like An Angel,” “Frost,” “I Don’t Like My Mind,” “Deal”
Least Favorites: N/A
Image Source: Amazon