The ultimate mother of super depressed teenage/slightly grown girls is back, after last year's controversial Laurel Hell. The expectations for the new album were high, even mine. The singles were absolutely amazing, and they certainly set the bar high. So did it meet the expectations? For me, motherfucking yes.
Mitski is an artist that I had a complicated relationship with. She is a fantastic songwriter and an incredible vocalist, but from the two albums I have heard from her (Laurel Hell and Be the Cowboy) were slightly underwhelming. Although she is very talented, I felt like she has yet to deliver a really great listen from beginning to end. Until this album.
From the three albums I've now heard from Mitski, this is her best one. She took a different approach here that paid off phenomenally. While Laurel Hell and Be the Cowboy are more fleshed out and dense sonically, this album is more gentle and delicate, yet still manages to stay rich and diverse simultaneously.
In terms of the album's production, it's in fact quite ambitious and dare I say strangely grand, even though it can seem stripped back and minimalistic at first. The foundation of the production is pretty simple, consisting mainly of acoustic guitars and gentle percussions. However, It's the touches of orchestral elements of strings, pianos, organs and even choirs, alongside apocalyptic soundscapes here and there, that makes this album feel like a unique journey.
I also feel like this production style fits Mitski like a damn glove, I've heard her singing over synthpop and indie pop productions, but it seems like this ethereally fragile instrumentation fits her perfectly. The whole mix is insanely comforting and immersive, and Mitski herself sounds more intimate than ever.
When it comes to Mitski's performances, of course she is impeccable. Her gorgeously touching vocals are more intimate and delicate than ever, yet she is still incredibly charismatic and mesmerizing. She is an amazing singer with such a dominant voice, even on the lower notes you can still feel her powerful presence in the mix.
Thematically, Mitski dives deeply into her own characteristics with a lot of charm and cleverness. From her alcohol addiction and self-hatred to her loneliness, depression and themes of love. Throughout the album it seems like she is going through her own mind and thoughts, desperately trying to solve and understand her own characteristics and struggles. However, she is doing that with a touch of playfulness and humor sometimes, which makes the journey oddly ironic.
An example of that dark humor can be seen on the track Bug Like an Angel. The dynamics between the stripped back acoustic verses and the grand choir hooks that come out of nowhere are very weird, but there is something humoristic about it. The contrast between the dark verses about alcohol addiction and the bright choir hooks has a comedic value to it. The music video for this track represents its dark humor perfectly. We are seeing an old woman walking drunk, stumbling and falling while everyone else is ignoring her in the street, then out of damn nowhere Mitski with an acoustic guitar and a whole choir are showing up near the old woman through the hook, in a genuinely funny way.
Mitski's writing is stellar as well. In terms of the songwriting, it's definitely Mitski at her best. I was very impressed by how complex and abstract some of the metaphors are, by the beautiful imagery, and the conceptual ideas. One example of a heart breaking conceptual idea is in the song "The Deal", which is about a woman walking alone in the streets at night, looking to make a deal of exchanging her soul, in order to get rid of it.
I guess my only gripes with the album are some of the song progressions. I felt like at times because of some of the songs' short lengths, the progressions towards a climax were maybe a bit too rushed and unnatural. Some songs' emotional impact was slightly harmed by it, and they didn't reach their full potential. I also wish some tracks were more stretched out with another bridge or a verse. The album would have benefited from a longer runtime.
Despite my gripes, the album is quite consistent with fantastic tracks, Mitski's best songwriting, stellar performances, killer production and many other enjoyable qualities.
Overall, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is an incredible project by Mitski. It contains some of her best songs and performances to date, and most importantly, it satisfied the hoes.
Favorite: Buffalo Replaced, Heaven, The Deal, My Love Mine All Mine, Star, I'm Your Man, I Love Me After You
Least favorite: I just looked at the tracklist for 3 minutes and I can't pick one wtf