Mitski - Land Is Inhospitable & So Are We

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Mitski spent the early part of her recording career establishing herself as an authentic voice of the alienated, marginalized, and romantically hapless with a string of candid indie rockers like "Your Best American Girl" and the eventually gold-certified "I Bet on Losing Dogs" before surprising fans and winning new ones with a quasi-synth pop album in the form of 2022's Laurel Hell. While that record's outlook remained similar to its predecessors, its glossier textures and ironic hooks launched her into the Top Five of the Billboard 200, her first time even cracking the Top 50. It may or may not come as a surprise, then, that she makes a stylistic sharp left turn with the more reserved, acoustic-leaning The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, a quasi-country album. With cited influences spanning Ennio Morricone, Faron Young, Caetano Veloso, and Arthur Russell, among others, it was recorded with her longtime producer, Patrick Hyland, with her band on hand live in the studio, and with a (judiciously employed) orchestra and 17-piece choir. The album begins evocatively, with the image of a bug stuck to the bottom of glass of booze on "Bug Like an Angel," and we know that chart success hasn't spoiled our anti-heroine. By the end of the first verse, the song's gentle vocals and strummed acoustic guitar are bombarded by a unison choir echoing the word "family" ("Sometimes a drink feels like family"). The choir later emphasizes the phrase "They break you right back." Western themes are soon introduced on the spare, grungy second track, "Buffalo Replaced," whose imagery includes mosquitoes and a freight train before steel guitar and Western swing make their first appearances on the tender, fully arranged "Heaven." Mitski returns to that song's orchestrated country stylings several more times here, including on tracks such as the pleading, potential outcast anthem "I Don't Like My Mind," the seductively languid earworm "My Love Mine All Mine" ("Nothing in the world belongs to me but my love"), and the more uptempo "The Frost," whose buoyant melody proves wry as the singer considers, "You're my best friend/Now I've no one to tell/How I lost my best friend." Toward the end of the 11-track set, the distinctly dark and immediate "I'm Your Man" ("You believe me like a god/I betray you like a man") juxtaposes its glee club-like harmony choir with thudding percussion and recordings of barking dogs, crickets, and a shriek. Mitski has left the twang in the mud-specked rearview mirror by the time the album closes on the simmering rocker "I Love Me After You," in which she refers to her lover as "king of all the land," making the point that, for her, love pervades everything, including the terrain.

1 Bug Like an Angel 3:32
2 Buffalo Replaced 2:40
3 Heaven 3:44
4 I Don't Like My Mind 2:25
5 The Deal 3:52
6 When Memories Snow 1:44
7 My Love Mine All Mine 2:17
8 The Frost 2:48
9 Star 2:59
10 I'm Your Man 3:29
11 I Love Me After You 2:48