Mitski is back, and she seems to have taken her record title “Be the Cowboy” quite literally.
Mitski released her seventh album, “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” on Sept. 15. She’s ditched the synth-pop sound from her previous release, “Laurel Hell,” and introduces a twangy, western vibe on her newest record.
The album marks a new chapter of Mitski’s life, one that’s both existential and peaceful. After a lengthy hiatus and feeling dreadful about returning to music, Mitski finally appears to be content with her career.
The album opens with lead single “Bug Like an Angel.” It gives a perfect feel of the record, beginning with an acoustic sound before erupting into a choral explosion. Mitski reflects on mistakes she’s made and broken promises, incorporating religious themes throughout the track.
On “Buffalo Replaced,” Mitski finds herself spending a night in the countryside. It’s a somber track that rejects city-living and modern life as a whole. The titular buffalo has been replaced by a freight train, and Mitski chooses to embrace nature rather than industrial life in America.
“Heaven,” another single, is reminiscent of old country music; a love song about Mitski’s devotion to her lover and the simple things in life. While the relationship has its issues, Mitski is willing to adapt in order to feel closer to her partner. The track feels homey and comforting with its slow-paced guitar and gentle percussion.
With “I Don’t Like My Mind,” Mitski wails over a guitar — a jarring shift from “Heaven.” The song, named after its first line, sounds like something that would be played in an old, western saloon. It’s one of the standout tracks for me, with strikingly relatable lyrics.
Mitski indulges in self-destructive distractions: blasting music, overworking herself and eating an entire cake only to throw it up. Sounds a lot like college to me.
Mitski is desperate to give away her soul on “The Deal.” She doesn’t want to sell it, she simply wants to be free from the pain that resides deep inside her. It’s a gorgeous song with a gospel-esque chorus, fading into a storm of percussion toward the end.
“When Memories Snow” begins with Mitski’s raw vocals layered over a piano. It’s contemplative and self-reflective, as Mitski sings about how she tends to repress her memories. In the middle of the track, horns and an array of sounds seem to explode; it’s a perfect climactic moment for the album.
“My Love Mine All Mine” is mellow and delightfully sweet. Mitski acknowledges that nothing in the world is truly hers except for her lover, and she seems perfectly OK with that. Even after Mitski is gone, she wants her partner to feel her love.
This track is particularly interesting to me, as the love interest that Mitski sings about is female: “My baby here on earth / Showed me what my heart was worth / So, when it comes to be my turn / Could you shine it down here for her?” Mitski has always been vague about her sexuality, but “My Love Mine All Mine” is a beautiful, queer love song.
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Twangy guitars open “The Frost,” a song that made me audibly gasp upon my first listen. Mitski explores loneliness and how bleak the world can be without somebody to share it with. It’s a sobering track, one that belongs on the soundtrack to a sad cowboy film.
Mitski sings about a lost love on “Star,” which was released alongside “Heaven” as a single. It has a classic Mitski-esque sound compared to the rest of the album, but it fits in perfectly. Although Mitski and her lover are no more, she will always remain devoted to them.
“I’m Your Man” is another standout song. Mitski uses religious imagery once again, comparing both herself and her former lover to dogs, singing, “I’m sorry I’m the one you love.” I adore the lyricism on this track; the sound of the guitar, the angelic choir and the dogs barking never fail to send chills down my spine.
“I Love Me After You” closes the album. Here, Mitski is learning to love herself after her previous relationship. It’s a hopeful ending — a perfect closer after such a vulnerable journey.
Since I first heard “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” at Black Plastic’s advance listening party, the album has stuck with me. Mitski’s lyricism and gorgeous vocals are at their peak here.
As much as I loved “Laurel Hell,” I can tell Mitski is truly at peace with her career on “The Land.” That’s what makes it feel more personable and more authentic, and I deeply appreciate Mitski for that.