If all good girls go to heaven, then all sad girls are destined for Nashville. At least, that’s how it goes in Mitski’s newest album, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We. In her seventh full-length studio album to date, released about a year and a half after her previous album, Mitski takes a step back from the ’80s synth that colored her last LP, Laurel Hell, and returns to classic Mitski form—but this time, with a bit of a country twist.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see a piece of the American heartland slipping in, though. In his review of The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, YouTuber Anthony Fantano notes that indie music has been “drinking from the well of Country for decades now.” In a 2021 Rolling Stone profile of Mitski, it was revealed that she had made the move from New York out to Nashville—the stronghold of country music—about two years prior to the interview. Thus, is it really such a shock to hear a bit of that country twang sneaking its way into this new LP?
No—and I would argue that often, that little bit of country is what allows the tracks on The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We to really stand apart from Mitski’s earlier repertoire. Take her fourth studio album, Puberty 2, in which Mitski’s laconic, mournful voice shines against the plucky guitar and drawling fiddles that punctuate her latest tracks. Yet, despite the shift in sound, Mitski’s strengths still lie in her gut-wrenching lyrics.
Mitski’s lyrics span a wide variety of topics—all, of course, relating to love or loneliness in some shape or form. “My Love Mine All Mine” tackles the idea of love as the narrator’s sole constant, comparing it to the moon.
“My love is mine, all mine / I love, my, my, mine / Nothing in the world belongs to me / But my love, mine, all mine,” the chorus says.
“Bug Like An Angel,” the LP’s lead single, tackles the idea of alcoholism and inheritance, as Mitski—alongside a choir—tells us that a “drink [sometimes] feels like family.” The presence of the choir—depicted as a gospel choir in the single’s music video—adds a more religious bent to the song’s solemn ruminations on the things we inherit from the people we love.
Mitski asks us to reach for God—ironically apt, considering her move to the Bible Belt—as we would for companionship. In The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, the warm, mournful tones Mitski is so well-known for aren’t meant to serve as an ironic juxtaposition to the dark loneliness underscoring her songs. Rather, it seems like Mitski has found some semblance of the salvation she’s been looking for all these years in her seventh studio album. Perhaps seven really is a magical number.
Even at her loneliest in this album—take, for example, the LP’s eighth track, “The Frost,” wherein Mitski sings, “But me, I was hidin’, or forgotten, the only one left / Now the world is mine alone”—Mitski hints at some end to this pervasive isolation, be it in the past or sometime in her near future.
There is something bleakly hopeful about the world in The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We. The natural elements press close to us throughout the eleven tracks that make up the LP: a beloved moon in “My Love Mine All Mine,” a dancing storm in “Heaven” freed since Mitski’s last album, and a faraway star in “Star,” reminding us of a love we once had. All the while, Mitski uses them to remind us that somewhere out there divinity exists. And because of that, we might not be so alone.
With all that said, let’s talk rankings.
My favorite track: “I’m Your Man.” One of my favorite Mitski songs has always been “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” from Mitski’s fifth studio album, Puberty 2. “I’m Your Man” feels like a follow up to that song as Mitski turns back around to talk about another failing relationship. Who, exactly, is the dog varies. Sometimes, Mitski is the dog; sometimes, it’s her imaginary lover. Either way, “I’m Your Man” delivers some of The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We’s rawest imagery, as the song closes out with the sound of dogs barking as a person screams—presumably the hounds Mitski mentions that come to tear her apart. At the end of the track all that’s left is the person, still screaming, even as we move on to the LP’s final song. When I think of The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, “I’m Your Man” was, is, and will continue to be the song I think of first.
My least favorite track: “Bug Like an Angel.” A hard pick to make: most—if not all—of the songs on The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We are strong and feature Mitski’s brilliantly witty lyricism. But “Bug Like an Angel” feels unsatisfying musically in places. The song is both too short and too long at the same time, with the chorus feeling like it ought to be building to something greater yet never reaching it. But maybe that was the point, that there’s nothing greater to reach for the song’s alcoholic narrator.
In summary: The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We is a strong return to form for Mitski. It heralds a newfound love for her craft, one that was sorely missing from Laurel Hell, her previous LP. The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We came as a complete surprise, especially after it had been announced that Laurel Hell would be Mitski’s sixth and final album before her retirement. I, personally, am glad to have her back, and just in time for sad girl autumn. Let’s just hope I don’t actually have to make my way down to Nashville.
Nicole Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.