Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

A disregard for the mainstream proves again to be Mitski’s strongest armour.

Label: Dead Oceans
Released: 15th September 2023

A Mitski album is always a surprise. Each one feels like it might be the last, but this one, ‘The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’, moreso because it arrives so quickly after last year’s ‘Laurel Hell’, another comeback after she’d vowed to quit music in 2019.

Perhaps you’d think Mitski may be tempted, after spending some time touring with pop heavyweight Harry Styles last summer and experiencing the light speed popularity of now-TikTok-hit ‘Nobody’ from 2018’s ‘Be The Cowboy, to go down a more accessible, poppier road for her seventh record, but Mitski does not make conventional moves.

Now over a decade into her career, her albums have explored love and loneliness in all its forms, this time taking on the high concept story of an unnamed narrator navigating an abandoned planet, finding themselves in the nothingness and discovering that when all else is gone, there’s still love.

While not as immediately striking as some of her other albums, namely ‘Laurel Hell’ and ‘Be The Cowboy’, it’s undoubtedly her most epic – a marathon not a sprint, if you will – featuring a full choir and orchestra, tracks often blossoming from tender and delicate to full blown cinematic affairs. The extravagant centrepiece ‘When Memories Snow’ is less than two minutes long and almost entirely that.

‘The Land…’ is sprawling but not overblown, grounded by Mitski’s consistently personal lyricism and the record’s turn towards a more country sound than she’s tried before. ‘The Deal’, a track about selling your soul, features some of that western pull before crashing into an enormous orchestra-led chorus and a final rumbling drum outro. As always with Mitski’s records, it’s an outpouring of her own pain that resonates far beyond the album’s walls.

Quieter moments like ‘The Frost’ also pull from that Western world, crystallising the album’s overarching theme into under three minutes as she wanders the world alone in a post-apocalyptic haze. In what is arguably her most back-loaded record, the triple-feature of the final tracks ‘Star’, ‘I’m Your Man’ and ‘I Love Me After You’ are her most expansive, taking us out to space, back down to earth and into her head.

In a decade where female singer songwriters, once misunderstood, are becoming recognised as The Greats (see: Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey), Mitski can’t be far behind. A disregard for the mainstream proves again to be Mitski’s strongest armour, as ‘The Land…’ becomes her most sonically interesting full-length yet.

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