A Deep-Dive into “This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” by Mitski

Singer and lyrical-genius Mitski released her seventh studio album This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We on September 15th, 2023. Last year, her 2022 release of Laurel Hell, ended her three-year hiatus from music. With this latest album, however, Mitski has seemed to have found a new rhythm in her songwriting. It shares similar features to Laurell Hell, including   some erratic synth-pop elements. It’s the theme of the album, though, that acts as the differentiator.  Now, her focus is on the inconsistencies found in life and all kinds of love, and how she manages despite them. Mitski expresses this purpose through her alluring instrumentals and innermost lyrics. 

Track One: “Bug Like an Angel”

Mitski’s first song sets the foundation for the rest of the album. Undoubtedly, the song is about the loneliness that comes with addiction, specifically alcoholism. Though the lyrics are saddening, the song itself is undemanding and tranquil as if to soothe the listeners. Her comfort is also given as Mitski states “As I got older, I learned I’m a drinker, sometimes a drink feels like family,” accepting her fate with wisdom from her plentiful years. She uses the bug in the title of the song as a metaphor for herself, and all others struggling with similar kismets. 

The bug is “stuck to the bottom of my glass, with a little bit left.” The bug isa reflection of Mitski herself, illustrating the self-awareness that  an addict may have, contrasted with their reluctance to  work on their health. At the end of the song she adds, “I try to remember the wrath of the devil was also given him by God.”Through this line she is unburdening herself of from accountability and is reasoning that just like the devil’s wrath, her own actions  The worst things in life are meant to be horrible, and Mitski’s singing has a way of twisting the deep-rooted despair into solace for those struggling as well. It is also the first of many religious allusions in this album. 

Track Two: “Buffalo Replaced”

Her followup song “Buffalo Replaced,” pulls the album into an  energetic tone that it remains in for the duration of its 32 minute runtime.. Her beginning leans into the hopeful undertone of the song: “Mosquitoes can enjoy me, I can’t go inside, I’m suckin’ up as much of the full moon, so bright.” This corresponds to the usage of bugs in expressing emotion throughout her album. She says this to note the similarities between her and the mosquitos, a tell to her true thoughts. However, she switches from bugs to animals during the chorus, stating “Freight train stampedin’ through my backyard, it’ll run across the plains like the new buffalo replaced” Mitski may be implying that things are easily replaced, as a freight train with new technology or a buffalo through natural selection. Or, from a historical standpoint, it can be displaying the modernization in everyday life–the decrease of the stunning, natural world. Then, in verse 2, the buffalo reappears as a manifested hope for the narrator. It also can symbolize all of nature, and technology taking nature over, as showcased in the chorus. Either way, Mitski chooses nature and animals above all as she holds faith in the buffalo, even with the difficulty that comes from absentminded trust, trust she has in the buffalo and nature: “Sometimes I think it would be easier without her but I know nothing can hurt me when I see her sleepin’ face.” Maybe life could be simpler without an abundance of technology, or without that uneasy trust, yet the persona must hold onto the hope of good in the world. In any interpretation, whether its hope or history, Mitski’s song impacts many through her depth and repeatedly meaningful writing, as this song can be understood as many different things.

Track Three: “Heaven”

Her next track, “Heaven,” keeps the same spiritual lyrics and swooning vocals from “Bug Like an Angel.” The meaning and lyrics themselves almost contrast each other when she says “Your low, warm voice curses as you find the string to strike within me,” providing context behind the relationship she sings about. Despite the evident issues in their relationship, Mitski’s vocals call out to Heaven in the background, praising her love to all. It showcases a realistic twist to the listeners from the rose-colored lenses in which the subject sings through. They know their relationship is failing, yet they still speak highly of it. Moreover, the problems they face are acknowledged– ”and the dark awaits us” –but they work through it together because they are in love. This optimism, taking things step-by-step, is abnormal in Mitski’s music since her writing is generally dejected or regretful. Still, it is Mitski after all, so she adds that consistent sorrow with a temporary solution of ignoring the problem. But, this simply makes it all the more realistic.

Track Four: “I don’t like My Mind”

As the title and the line, “I don’t like being left alone in a room,” bluntly expresses, Mitski doesn’t want to be alone with her thoughts. This song starts off more aggressively than the others, where Mitski sounds desperate and urgent like she’s trying to get rid of any negative thoughts. Consequently, the protagonist develops unhealthy coping mechanisms detailed in lyrics like “so, yeah, I blast music loud and I work myself to the bone and on an inconvenient Christmas, I eat a whole cake, all for me.” Eating sweets to cope is the perfect amount of tragically relatable, making it extremely easy for anyone to connect to. The way she explains the desire to step away from oneself, to be someone else, is what makes this song exceptionally impactful to many.

Track Five: “The Deal”

As the album continues, the listeners witness the narrator spiral further into feelings of low self-worth. The deal the title refers to is the story of someone with enough self-hatred, it makes them sell their soul. Not being able to live with themselves anymore, the protagonist decides that they want “someone to take this soul” since they  “can’t bear to keep it.” As a last resort, they realize the only thing they can do is to change entirely. These characters, or perhaps character Mitski sings about throughout the album, continue their self-destructive path with no end in sight. Eventually, the persona gets rid of everything– personality, joy, sadness. But, again, they seem to regret their decision as the music in the end speeds up with a constant mantra of “There’s a deal I made.” All of her songs so far have been comforting and calm, but abruptly the music gets frantic. The listeners must experience the consequences and regrets that the persona experiences likewise. It is embedded into the ears of the audience what dangerous these temporary, unhealthy solutions can lead to.

Track Six: “When Memories Snow”

This is another song in the album that is about pushing down problems in hopes of forgetting about them. The snow in this song is meant to symbolize memories, particularly difficult ones, caving in on oneself. When Mitski sings “when memories snow and cover up the driveway I shovel all those memories,” it represents the personas’ tendency to crush any negative thoughts or regrets and push them away. They find other ways to distract themselves, to stop thinking about past issues. For instance, in verse 2, fantasy is used to further cope with any lingering difficulties. The fear of falling apart forces the narrator to hide in their mind, creating a less painful reality for themself. They say “​​And if I break could I go on break? Be back in my room.” The juxtaposition between the desire for a break and the fear of losing what she has built underscores the complexity of Mitski’s emotional landscape. She references her room as it serves as a sanctuary from the demands of the outside world. 

Track Seven: “My Love Mine All Mine” 

Arguably one of the most popular tracks on the album, it expands the album’s viewpoint on love, adding chaos to the mix. When she begins the song with “​​Moon, a hole of light,” Mitski sets the basis for the rest. The bright, ever-present moon aids her discovery of self-control. Love, throughout the mess of life, is the one constant control someone has. Mitski explained in a Genius interview that not much in her life was permanent, having moved around a lot and nothing for herself. So, she discovered this thing that was all for her. What she found was that “nothing in the world belongs to me but my love, mine, all mine, all mine” The lyrics were a strange turning point in the album, which had been filled with nihilistic elements up until now. Her soft singing and gentle instrumentals allow people to find solace in the song, like she did when making her own finding about love. The closing assertion, “My baby here on earth showed me what my heart was worth,” elevates the commonplace relationships of life above celestial notions, reinforcing Mitski’s choice for the authenticity of ordinary love over the allure of the divine. 

Track Eight: “The Frost”

Looping the album back to its original themes, “The Frost,” reestablishes some of the regret and loneliness from the past songs. Clearly, the loneliness the protagonist transfers to the listeners is longstanding stating that “the frost, it looks like dust settled on the world after everyone’s long been gone” The frost itself is a metaphor for loneliness, the feeling personified into something that comes and goes by season. Although it is not permanent, the persona still feels like it’s been there forever. They recall their best friend, who they lost somehow, and how without them, Mitski’s character is “forgotten, the only one left now the world is [hers] alone” The topics of grief, regret, isolation unfurl via the tranquil melody and devastating writing. Mitski’s ability to articulate such strong feelings is what makes this song so crucial.

Track Nine: “Star”

Mitski’s next and ninth track features a story about two partners that separated, but still care for one another. The purpose of stars throughout the song is to explain the dying love between those two people. When Mitski gently delivers the line, “it’s gone, we just see it shinin’, it’s traveled very far.” This makes the connection between the disintegrating star and the dwindling relationship become apparent-both keep shining amid their inevitable decline. This love is incredibly important to the protagonist, as clarified by the line, “keep a leftover light, burnin’ so you can keep lookin’ up.” Therefore, they still care deeply for each other and want to reminisce about their time together. Overall, the song explains how some relationships stick with you even if it has grown cold.

Track Ten: “I’m Your Man”

This song is from the point of view of a woman regretting her side in a past relationship. Right away, Mitski drags in the divinity from her previous tracks when she says “You’re an angel, I’m a dog,” setting up context to the relationship. The narrator believes her past partner is better than herself, a sentiment likely rooted in the way she treated him. The listeners can infer that mistreatment through the self-deprecating lyrics and melancholy tune. She solidifies the idea in the end when she says “You believe me like a god, I betray you like a man,” a powerful line to end a song about regret immersed in religious imagery. This entire album has been strengthened through its callbacks, whether it’s in religion or themes. It’s interesting to see how each song down the line expands more and more on those topics, and what the narrator ends up becoming.The pedestal she places her partner on here compared to her own, which she knocks down, reveals the true tone of the album itself–love, regret, and self-esteem, and their negative effects.

Track Eleven: “I Love Me After You”

Mitski’s final track provides closure on who the persona becomes regarding their relationship and loving themself. Even though a great quantity of the album was spent in expressing Mitski’s raw, riveting emotions through a familiar narrator, brilliant writing and song-making, this song leaves the audience with hope. The first verse talks about how she’s caring for herself, which is a great improvement given her self-destructive record. Then, in the second verse, she displays her growth by shifting her focus from obsessing over every little detail to prioritizing her own well-being. She still has complicated emotions about love and relationships as evidenced by the line, “how I love me after you.” Through this she’s accepting her feelings but no longer in a masochistic way. Through this she is able to grow and take back what is hers–her love and worth–while still caring for the past. And, to end the album, she sings “King of all the land / I’m king of all the land,” possibly referring to the title of her album. By saying this, she claims her (inhospitable) land back as if she is planning

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