The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We review | Mitski puts authenticity over commercialism

Mitski has released a very different record to last year’s Laurel Hell; as though she’s played the whole popstar game and is now returning to what she deems most genuine, writes Lucy Harbron. Read our The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We review.


Fans really thought Mitski was done after her 2022 album Laurel Hell. An album full of comments about her discomfort with her own success, Mitski has always been vocal about despising the position she’s in. So when she did a huge Harry Styles support tour then swiftly disappeared, shutting her merch store and posting a cryptic image of a closed door, fans assumed that was the end; that she’d made her money and gone off to live invisibly somewhere. But we were wrong. Announcing her seventh album only a month-and-a-half ago, The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We has landed in fan’s laps like a surprise gift.

Immediately there’s something different. Laurel Hell had such a clear identity, straying into deep 80’s synth-pop territory with glossy visuals and a new slickness. This album is exactly the opposite. Seeming to downright refuse to ‘brand’ this album, Mitski announced the record through a visual-less voice note. It’s as if she completed the whole popstar act last time and is now back to herself; and as the album opens with a simple acoustic guitar, we’re back to beautiful basics.

For Mitski fans, signatures are still there. Often starting her records with a slow build – including dramatically swelling openers ‘Valentine, Texas’ (Laurel Hell) or ‘Geyser’ (Be The Cowboy) – ‘Bug Like An Angel’ does that in its own way, bursting open from the acoustic intro into a full choral refrain.

The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We

But the rest of the album is more sonically subdued. For fans that joined during the Laurel Hell era or saw her open for Harry Styles, this record will feel vastly different. Rich with steel slide guitars and country, folk twangs on tracks like ‘Heaven’ and ‘My Love Mine All Mine’, the themes of eco-existentialism find their way into the music as she creates an earthy sound. Recorded between Nashville and L.A., The Land Is Inhospitable… is full of classic and modern americana, stealing sounds from traditional American country and mixing it with fresh tales of looking round at the world and being gutted by what you see.

“I want someone to take this soul / I can’t bear to keep it,” Mitski sings on ‘The Deal’, a track that harks back to 2016’s Puberty 2. Using a bird in a cage as a metaphor for being trapped in yourself and sick of it, begging to have yourself confiscated for a second of reprieve from your mind, she wastes no time in delivering some of her most devastating lyrics.

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A master at articulating tricky feelings, this album continues that trend expertly. While tackling some big topics like addiction, ownership and heartbreak, this album mostly deals with the in-betweens. ‘The Frost’ exists in the aftermath, singing “You’re my best friend / Now I’ve no one to tell / How I lost my best friend”, articulating that feeling of wanting the person that broke your heart to comfort it. Elsewhere, ‘I Love Me After You’ meets us further down the line, playing in the feeling of relief after a breakup (“I love me after you, king of all the land”).

But the finest lyrical moment of the album comes on ‘I’m Your Man’, a track that feels primed to take the top spot as one of her smartest. Managing to grapple with an endlessly complex feeling without using so many words, the track looks at the push-and-pull of being on someone’s pedestal and not being able to live up to it. Direct, gut-wrenching and beautiful in the way the saddest songs are, the lyrics “I’m sorry I’m the one you love / No one will ever love me like you again / So when you leave me I should die / I deserve it, don’t I,” sit in the album like a bomb, ready to wound you just as you least expect it.

Mitski review

Laurel Hell had a distinct feeling Mitski was trying. Mitski was attempting to do something big: to be the star, to do the big tour, to have the big album. You got the feeling she was trying to be the person the industry wanted her to be, on what was her most commercial album to date. And you could see her discomfort in doing so.

On ‘Working For The Knife’, Laurel Hell’s second track, she sang; “I used to think I’d be done by twenty / Now at twenty-nine, the road ahead appears the same / Though maybe at thirty, I’ll see a way to change / That I’m working for the knife.” She couldn’t have put it clearer that she was looking for a way out of the place, and maybe even the career she’d found herself in.

Now aged 32, The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We hasn’t quite brought that to fruition. Instead, it feels like an album by someone who tried to quit but simply can’t escape their convulsions to create. Life kept happening, stories kept asking to be told, feelings kept needing to be figured out, and Mitski seems unable to have resisted their call.

Building a smaller world by diving deep into herself and the place she’s standing in, this album is a return to the intimacy Mitski has always mastered. Privately pulling at threads from her own life and the world around us, and picking apart the fibres of thoughts and feelings, the result is an album so distinctly weaved by the Mitski her fans know and love – and who feel privileged to hear from.

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