Mitski makes the land and life belong to us

“The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” is Mitski’s seventh studio album. The album and its release date welcomed autumn, touching on the humanity imbuing the inhospitable. // Photo courtesy of Dead Oceans

“There’s a bug like an angel stuck to the bottom” begins Mitski’s seventh studio album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” perfectly encapsulating the energy of the album. 

Throughout “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” Mitski brings the heavenly into the world of the mundane; she proves that in today’s America, one void of true will and defined by increasingly barren life, the small moments of feeling — both the painful and beautiful — are creational. They sew a patchwork of tenderness that dulls the edges of the sharp, apathetic bitterness Mitski fears has coated our lives.

The constant struggle between making a place in this inhospitable world, this inhospitable country and this inhospitable body or choosing to become another lifeless part of the background is the central conflict of the album.

In “The Deal,” Mitski sings of a walk at night where she begs to have her soul taken, proclaiming, “I can’t bear to keep it / I’d give it just to give.” At the end of the song, her soul appears to her in the form of a bird and tells her, “Your pain is eased, but you’ll never be free for / Now I’m taken, the night has me,” reminding her that choosing to forfeit the heavy weight of her soul is also to forfeit the lightness of creating meaning.

“The Frost” tells another story of grief and how forgetting lost loved ones is a disservice to ourselves; love that is lost is still love that existed for a moment in the unlikely and inhospitable. Mitski sings of packing up boxes of memories to collect dust in the attic, but as she watches “the frost, it looks / Like dust settled on the world,” she remembers. 

She feels that, in burying a memory, she has left herself in a world alone and that in packing away the cutting edges of her loss, she has also abandoned an integral part of herself, and all that remains “is just witness-less me.”

However, Mitski does not allow the wound to fester. In “Star,” she crafts lost love in a new light as one that she has allowed to persevere — even in space. She sings that while “the love’s gone / we just see it shining.” This song, more than any other on the album, speaks to Mitski’s core message.

Every love, tenderness, pain or simple feeling is what makes this land livable and this life bearable. In the coldness of space, it is Mitski’s memories nestled into that abyss that bring light and warmth to a dejected existence.

 With this touch of humanity, Mitski emphasizes that it is not even the act of loving that makes this world habitable, but rather the moments and joys we carry from it.

In an interview, Mitski said that, “the best thing I ever did in life was to love people,” and “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” stands as a shining testament to that. Since the beginning of her career, Mitski has enchanted audiences with love stories of what she has endured, what she dreams of and what she will never forget.

To make this life one worth living — to make this a place capable of life — love is the first and only step in an uphill battle. Mitski leaves us with the reminder that love is not singular and does not exist only within a vacuum. Through it all, the human condition, we are the only ones who make this land hospitable.