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The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Mitski probes and picks at her fatalistic thoughts in “The Land is Inhospitable And So Are We”

“Bug Like An Angel” features Mitski’s contemplations of how addiction affects the interpersonal connections that she craves.

A woman staggers out of a bar into a dark street, moving as if her limbs are controlled by marionette strings. As a choir sings in the background outside an establishment, she eventually collapses onto the ground. While the conductor helps her regain her footing, the woman’s eyes widen in realization; shaking off the conductor’s arm, she sticks her tongue out in playful defiance and overcomes her initial imbalance, taking drunken strides forward off into the distance.

This scene comes straight out of the music video for “Bug Like an Angel,” the opening track off of indie pop poet Mitski’s seventh album, “The Land is Inhospitable And So Are We,” released Sept. 15, 2023. A vibrant epic in its own right, the album, much like the music video, depicts Mitski wrestling with distractions, loneliness, relationships and self-love. Along the way, Mitski proves that comfort with being alone and facing reality is key to moving forward and healing.

While instrumentally and lyrically dense, the album is a brief musical experience, clocking in at just 32 minutes. It marks the first time Mitski uses an in-house band, having recorded the album at two studios in Nashville and Los Angeles. Given its recording settings, it makes sense that it embodies Americana. The singer blends her distinctive indie pop sound with minimalist country, a surprising move for an artist known for edgier hits like “Washing Machine Heart” and “Nobody.” The shift to simple acoustic arrangements evokes the idea of isolation that defines the album, the simple production creating an atmosphere of intimacy and vulnerability.

Yet one thing doesn’t change: Mitski’s songs are still depressing. Need proof? The previously mentioned track, “Bug Like An Angel,” portrays addiction and hitting rock bottom. “Sometimes a drink feels like family,” the narrator softly muses, rationalizing her behavior over delicate acoustics as the voices of a choir swell in the background.

Right away, the conflict between loneliness and connection takes center stage. The narrator drinks because they crave relationships, yet in doing so, they only distance themselves from others. Interestingly, they’re quite adamant that they’ve brought this upon themselves. The thought is fatalistic, but fitting and the themes of self-sabotage and fear are pervasive throughout the course of the album.

However, the standout song, entitled “Heaven,” to my relief, isn’t as emotionally heavy. The ballad, in which the narrator expresses their desire to be with their significant other, blends country twang with majestic string arrangements. I was pleasantly surprised that the musical combination sounded, well, heavenly. Mitski seems to agree. As the instrumental gently trails off into silence, she asks “Can we stay a while and listen for heaven?”

Meanwhile, the following track “I Don’t Like My Mind,” is refreshingly frank as it makes Mitski’s devotion to her craft clear through her lyrics. Even as she confesses hating the idolatry that comes with being one of indie’s most popular artists, she acknowledges that making music gives her purpose, wailing at the public to “Please don’t take/Take my job from me.” And yet, I can’t take the song seriously–the catalyst for Mitski’s realization came from her eating a whole cake on Christmas, which made me think of that meme where Arthur from the eponymous kid’s show shoves an entire piece of cake in his mouth. I know, I’m a clown.

Mitski intersperses mentions of angels, the devil, and God throughout the album, so much so it feels intentional. Upon listening to the entire album, it’s interesting to see how besides love, Mitski uses religion as a metaphor for immersing yourself in something as a distraction. Of course, religion isn’t inherently a distraction; however, there remains a similarity between the devotion many have for religion as a means for escape and the devotion Mitski has for running away from reality. It’s strange how the tools we develop as coping mechanisms actually end up being vessels for our own self-destruction.

Of course, this is pretty depressing. The good news? Mitski realizes this, in a more familiar-sounding final track titled “I Love Me After You.” “I’m king of the land,” she proclaims, as instruments collide into the last few notes after 11 tracks of cluttered cohesiveness.

Even if its sound did come out of left field, with her masterful weaving together of the old themes and sounds with the new, Mitski once again composes an album that is sure to please longtime fans, and get them thinking once it’s over.

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