Mitski – ‘The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’ review: masterful, as ever
Seven albums in, Mitski Miyawaki is one of our generation’s great shapeshifting songwriters. She did odd, freaky chamber-pop on her first two albums, ‘Lush’ and ‘Retired From Sad, New Career In Business’; tactile guitar-rock with ‘Bury Me At Makeout Creek’ and ‘Puberty 2’; and glossy, synthy textures on ‘Be the Cowboy’ and ‘Laurel Hell’. With all of these sounds, she’s been singular in her ability to capture brutal emotional truths.
Her newest album, ‘The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’, sees Mitski return to a more organic and analogue sound. These sonics feel worn-in and earthly; something about them recalls dust-covered wooden floors, wedding dances in old American backrooms. The first track, ‘Bug Like An Angel’, begins with Mitski singing over an acoustic guitar. “As I got older, I learned I’m a drinker / Sometimes a drink feels like family.” A choir bursts in on that word only, “family”. Such tragic solitude is contained in those lines, and then that sudden comfort and presence. This is not a joyful sentiment, but it’s a joyful sound, out of nowhere and out of nothing. It disappears again.
The crux of the album is the dance shared between great grief and great joy; communicated through Mitski’s instrumental choices, both are unflattened and bare. The album paints a landscape that is shaped entirely by these poles — they bring about apocalyptic destruction then birth new life; they exist because of each other, or are one and the same.
The song ‘Heaven’ is so flowering with hope that it’s overwhelming; two lovers come, and it’s a miracle, the creation of something brand new and pure and blinding. The soft orchestral arrangement grows and unfurls along with the song, becoming ever lusher and more desperately beautiful. In the inverse, there’s the sparseness of ‘Star’; that new love is gone now, a galaxy away, a pinprick that you can just make out in the night sky if you squint. To start with, the musical backing, one of the album’s rare instances of synth, is indistinct, droning, just a backdrop of blackness; then it builds until the sound is enormous, shimmering, quaking, like the titular star collapsing on itself.
‘My Love Mine All Mine’ is the album’s most stunning track, a gorgeous slow-dance. Where other tracks break your heart, this one lovingly patches it. “Nothing in the world belongs to me, but my love, mine all mine.” The choices and the arrangements on ‘The Land is Inhospitable…’ are some of Mitski’s most complex and richest, yet they translate to such simplicity, a statement that there is pain and love and that’s it. Those are the ingredients with which we make everything.
- Release date: September 15, 2023
- Record label: Dead Oceans