By Eden Unger, Staff Writer
Album: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
Favorite Tracks: “The Deal,” “I’m Your Man,” “My Love Mine All Mine,” and “I Love Me After You”
AN ODE TO MITSKI'S NIGHT SKY:
The heavens have long been a point of interest for singer-songwriter Mitski Miyawaki (known, by most, as just Mitski). “Well, I'm not the moon, I'm not even a star” she sings on “Your Best American Girl”, and on “Nobody,” “Venus, planet of love, was destroyed by global warming.” So, it’s fitting that she’s written an album that feels like looking up at a sky full of stars on a clear night, perhaps viewed from a field in the countryside, or the roof of an old, abandoned barn.
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is the perfect storm of Mitski’s older acoustic work — think “Strawberry Blonde” off Retired From Sad, New Career In Business and “A Burning Hill” off Puberty 2 — and the heart-and-gut-wrenching heavy edginess of more recent albums. Twangy, twinkling at times, pounding and tenacious at others; this album has teeth, and grit aplenty.
YOUR BEST AMERICAN GIRL
The inspirations for the album, Mitski’s “most American album,” range from the iconic scores written by Ennio Morricone for spaghetti Western movies, to the classical compositions of Igor Stravinsky, to the country music of singer-songwriter and producer Faron Young. Mitski has previously discussed that she tends to work in sets of two with her albums, where she discovers an idea on the first album, and then further explores and develops it on the second. The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is the artist’s seventh album, hence the completely new artistic direction.
Whether or not she follows her usual pattern, the folk and country elements and instrumentation Mitski taps for this album are an exciting new direction for her. These are most apparent on songs like “Heaven,” the third single released from the album, a haunting ballad that ends with a plea for to a lover who is slipping away to “stay a while and listen for heaven;” “My Love Mine All Mine,” a lush, intimate love song where Mitski talks to the moon, and asks that it shine on her lover after her time comes; and “The Frost,” where Mitski, the morning after her lover leaves, imagines herself the sole survivor of an apocalypse.
THE LAND IS INHOSPITABLE AND BOO!
One of the things Mitski has talked about in her recent series of “(Behind the Song)” videos on YouTube is her penchant for musical “jumpscares.” This album certainly has a few moments that could be described that way, but rather than fear-inducing, these moments are ones of profound musicianship and emotional depth that hit like a “Freight train stampedin’ through my backyard” (“Buffalo Replaced”).
The first “jumpscare” takes place on “Bug Like An Angel,” the lead single of the album, and is punctuated by a 17-person choir arranged by Mitski herself. I don’t want to give any of the rest away, so I’ll just let you “deal” with them as they come.
SHE’S KING OF ALL THE LAND
Mitski hits her peak on songs like “The Deal” and “I’m Your Man.”
On “The Deal,” the singer tries to trade her soul away, as many in the American musical tradition have supposedly done before. But of course she is met only with silence. This song is truly the best of both worlds, it begins quietly and reaches aching, soaring heights, only to crash back down, and slowly crescendo into a cacophonous climax at the song’s end.
“I’m Your Man” is pure poetry. It’s the earth-shattering deep-deep-down stuff that keeps us coming back for more Mitski, album after album, with lyrics like “You believe me like a god, I destroy you like I am,” and “One day you'll figure me out, I'll meet judgment by the hounds.”