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Lillian’s Lowdown: Mitski’s new album is one of her greatest

Mitski’s seventh studio album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” was released Sept. 15, and it might be one of her best.

The new record features Mitski’s uniquely poignant voice melding with music that is deeply country-inspired. Yet again, her masterful songwriting skills are showcased by poetic lyrics, which tell 11 little stories that coalesce into one larger narrative. 

Although it’s not particularly the style she’s known for, this isn’t the first time Mitski has dipped into a Western sound. Take, for example, her song “Lonesome Love,” her demo for “Love Me More” or her work for the audiobook of “This is Where We Fall,” a sci-fi Western novel by Chris Miskiewicz. In “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” Mitski uses the genre to lean into the persona of a cowboy and rural and religious imagery, slowly crafting a story saturated in isolation, longing and the divinity of love.

She begins with “Bug Like an Angel,” setting the tone for the rest of the album. Here, her religious references are emphasized by the backing vocals of a gospel choir, which contrast against Mitski’s soft singing voice. In the body of a bug crushed by a glass of liquor, the alcohol-addicted narrator sees an angel. 

She uses similar symbolism in songs like “Buffalo Replaced,” where hope takes on the form of a nameless buffalo, and in “The Deal,” in which her soul is a bird on a streetlight. In both, the singer conveys a feeling of self-hatred. She feels as if she’s better off with no hope and no soul but finds, frustratingly, she can’t go on without them. 

Meanwhile, the ghost of a lover echoes in tracks such as “Heaven,” “Star,” “I’m Your Man” and Mitski’s first song to appear on the Billboard Hot 100, “My Love Mine All Mine.” As the singer laments the loss of a partner, the listener can feel her sorrows and triumphs in each lilt of her voice. In “Heaven,” the singer begs silently for her absent partner to stay with her in what she views as paradise. “Star” is bittersweet, with the singer reminiscing on lost love, appreciating what she had, while in “I’m Your Man” the singer believes she is inherently unlovable and destructive. Notably, the lover doesn’t quite show up in any of these songs. Mitski is already alone. In “My Love Mine All Mine” she deems love her only true possession.

There’s a pervasive sense of loneliness that’s present in every song, but there’s also hope. 

Mitski repeats again and again that she’s alone, that she’s “lost her best friend,” that the love shared with the singer’s subject is gone, and yet she’s grateful for receiving what she never felt worthy of. She describes that love as ethereal and compares it to a star, the moon and angels, while she herself is painfully, irrevocably human. She’s a dog. She’s a god. She’s a man. She breaks promises. She hurts people. She wants to give up, but she can’t let go. Now, she has to come to terms with it.

The album’s final track, “I Love Me After You,” offers an optimistic ending. The singer is drinking water instead of alcohol. She’s laughing. In the absence of her partner, she’s gathered a sense of confidence she didn’t have before. She’s learned to find joy in being alone, claiming herself “king of all the land.”

It feels almost wrong to say that Mitski casts away the self-loathing she’s carried with her throughout the entire album, rather, she’s transformed it into acceptance. The steady, aching misery that stretches across the record is molded into an appreciation of the love she had and the love she still has left to give. Her conclusion: the land is inhospitable; she is inhospitable; her love is inhospitable—so are we. 

Lillian Barry is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Lillian know by tweeting her at @lillianbarry_.

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