Ever since her debut album, Mitski has set herself apart as an artist unafraid to experiment with the way she produces music. Some of her most famous tracks, like the drum-heavy single “Washing Machine Heart” and the kaleidoscopic “First Love/Late Spring” are impressive examples of what it means to truly express emotion as an artist. In her 2023 release, titled “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” Mitski once again radically alters her sound to fit the subject matter of the record. In this project, there is a much more stripped-down and orchestral sonic palette with a heavy emphasis on lyricism.
The first single of the album, titled “Bug Like an Angel,” presents us with a simple acoustic guitar performance as Mitski sings about promises she has broken and mistakes she has made while also mentioning her struggle with alcoholism. At certain moments, there are beautiful interjections of a full choir singing backing vocals for Mitski’s voice that set the tone for the melancholy themes of this album.
“Buffalo Replaced” consists of a thudding drum beat and wild expressions of confidence in her decisions. There is also some fascinating synthesizer work being done on this track that makes the song feel like it is tripping over itself, similar to how Mitski describes herself as a buffalo stampeding through life.
From here the album moves to themes of love and how soothing it can be on the track “Heaven,” but these positive tones are intercut with lyrics that imply flaws in a dying relationship. This song has a nice country swing to it, but there is also a glamorous orchestral presence within the composition that makes it feel like so much more than a simple country piece. The roots of negativity in “Heaven” begin to affect Mitski in “I Don’t Like My Mind” as she sings about her attempts to ignore the dark thoughts she has through unhealthy and dismissive coping mechanisms. Her wailing vocals combined with a complex ambient soundscape and small touches of lap steel instrumentation do a great job of conveying the helplessness that Mitski is attempting to portray.
Heavy classical influence and a lilting violin memory are present in “The Deal,” which talks about Mitski’s desire to sell her soul so she doesn’t have to deal with it anymore. From here Mitski becomes introspective on the sixth track, “When Memories Snow.” This song is thematically similar to the thoughts expressed in “I Don’t Like My Mind,” but here there is an aggressive and repetitive drum beat and even some elements of dissonance between instruments during the chorus.
“My Love Mine All Mine” has a simple guitar performance with Mitski’s singing and other small instrumental touches. Here she entrusts her love to the moon, so that it may show how much she loves her lover even after Mitski is gone from this world.
The eighth track, “The Frost,” touches on the loss of love and how cold the world is without a best friend to talk to. “Star” is a story of two people who were once madly in love with one another but now only partly care about each other. With gut-wrenching lines like “Keep a leftover light burnin’ so you can keep lookin’ up” coupled with an arrangement that becomes more glittery and beautiful as the song progresses, this track is a standout moment on the album and a true reflection of Mitski’s innate ability to communicate such raw emotions.
“I’m Your Man” discusses an experience in which a woman’s lover treats her as though she is a god when she is in reality only a woman and cannot be held to such heights.
The closing track, “I Love Me After You,” is the perfect sendoff to this melancholic relationship that Mitski describes herself as being a part of throughout the project. Here she is backed by noisy post-rock guitars and muffled white noise while she sings about moving on and loving herself. The aggressive choice of instruments reflects her knowledge of the pain she is going through while also reflecting on her ability to keep walking through life.
Mitski’s seventh studio album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” is a powerful emotional statement on love and how it can hurt. This record is one that came from an incredibly personal space in her heart, and because of this depth and emotional involvement, she has yet again evolved in her production and her vocal delivery. For anyone interested in listening to a genre-bending and creative example of expression through music, look no further than this project.