It’s no secret to anyone who knows me, at least a little bit, that I love Indie Singer-songwriter Mitski. If you don’t know her, you probably actually do. She’s the indie darling behind songs like “Washing Machine Heart” and “Nobody” which blew up on Tiktok in 2021. Her music is a perfect blend of beautiful lyricism with various experimental instrumentation, from orchestral acoustic to funk-inspired synthesizers. Each album has carved its own identity in her discography–however after an excruciating four-year-long hiatus, and a return album that sparked controversy and discourse around fans’s feelings of ownership over their favorite artists, many fans believed Mitski was disillusioned with making music and the industry.
It’s likely that she’s still highly critical of her place in the industry and her relationship with her fans–yet in early September she released “This Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” to fan and critical acclaim. Safe to say, Mitski’s comeback so soon after her last album has instantly made this my biggest music release of the year. So here’s my review!
This album takes a vast detour from the style Mitski has been associated with for her last few studio albums. Instead of taking the route of alternative pop tunes with electronic instrumentation, creating either danceable tunes such as in “Laurel Hell” or creating stimulating auditory interest such as in “Be the Cowboy,” Mitski’s album takes heavy inspiration from American folk music and incorporates both the instruments and their largely-acoustic style of songwriting–with some key exceptions. Mitski has always had a thing about cowboys. The open west, tumbleweeds, and the loneliness of an open sky have characterized many songs and albums throughout her discography. It’s fitting that an album so all-encompassing of Mitski as a person features these motifs in full, with classic guitar twangs to the soulful poetic lyrics that make up Mitski’s signature. I’ll be highlighting my top four songs off the record, and diving a bit into why I like them.
“Heaven” – One of the three singles, this ballad leans heavily into country territory, though it features a strings solo towards the end–which I find makes it a uniquely beautiful song in Mitski’s discography. Its lyrical imagery of filling cups and sipping coffee invokes the album’s key image–a shattered cup pieced back together. It might be cheeky to describe this song as “heavenly,” but it absolutely is.
“My Love Mine All Mine” – I’m a sucker for songs with moon themes. What can I say? Out of the others on this list, this one reminds me of most of Mitski’s previous work, invoking some of the happier songs on “Bury Me at Makeout Creek,” while keeping to this album’s signature style. The chorus is simple, yet that simplicity makes it feel loving, like a warm hug, making it distinct amongst some of the more heart-wrenching songs of the album.
“The Frost” – A severely underrated song, Frost is a song about wanting connection and self-worth, and that yearning relatability may be why it’s my favorite on the album. I love the imagery in the lyrics, plus I adore the twangy country guitar featured prominently on the track. It just makes the song so much more distinct despite its shorter run time.
“I’m Your Man” – Mitski blends motifs of dogs’ relationship to man with man’s relationship to god. Halfway through the song, the lyrics cut out and the backtrack is filled with a haunting choir calling out, mirroring the sounds of dogs barking atop acoustic guitar. This song is heartwrenching in its depiction of regret, betrayal, and self-deprecation, and creates a feeling of tension and resignation hard to put into words.
This album may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s absolutely mine. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to broaden their horizons and dip their toes into folk music while staying mainly in the Indie realm. It’s not a happy one for sure, but Mitski’s haunting vocals and poignant lyrics make it an absolute treasure to listen to.