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The independent student media site of West Linn High School

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The independent student media site of West Linn High School

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Mitski explores a new sound on “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We”

Copies of “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” on the shelves at the Barnes and Noble at Clackamas Town Center.
Angelina Handris
Copies of “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” on the shelves at the Barnes and Noble at Clackamas Town Center.

Alternative singer-songwriter Mitski has become something of a luminary in the world of sad-girl indie pop. The 33-year-old musician has been referenced by artists, such as Phoebe Bridgers in her song “Chinese Satellite”, and is renowned for her uncanny, confessional lyricism and soft yet powerful vocals. 

Mitski’s seventh studio album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We”, released on Sept. 15, deviates somewhat from the synthesized sounds fans have come to know from Mitski. The album includes whispers of folk and western music. Although the tracks are characteristically short in length, they take on a more natural and raw sound, stripped down to percussion, acoustic guitar, and orchestral instruments.

The album opener, “Bug Like An Angel”, is essentially Mitski singing over an acoustic guitar with choral backing vocals. The melody repeats the same four chords for almost the entire song. It has a slightly upbeat cadence, despite being dark subject matter. In a video on Mitski’s official YouTube channel, she explains the choices she made in writing the melody.

“The song is about addiction and I wanted to show musically, somehow, that addiction is basically a cycle,” Mitski said. “You’re just kind of stuck in this repetitive, over and over. It doesn’t end.”

The penultimate track “I’m Your Man” features barking dogs, chirping cicadas, and a choir. In the initial stages of songwriting, Mitski stated that it was short, even for her standards, but she didn’t want to add a bridge or more verses. She spoke more about the song in another YouTube video.

“And then I thought, ‘Okay, what’s my favorite thing? Choral voices,’” Mitski said. “So I had the great privilege of writing the four part harmony for the choir, and then getting a choir.” 

The lyrics on “The Land is Inhospitable” deliver pictures of rolling hills, buzzing mosquitoes, and half-empty glasses. A notable piece of storytelling on the record comes from “I Don’t Like My Mind”, where Mitski sings of eating an entire cake by herself on Christmas, seemingly to compensate for her loneliness, and then throwing up. Loneliness and isolation are topics Mitski has explored before, but these feelings echo throughout this entire album. 

The verses in the track “The Frost” seem to imply a post-apocalyptic future, where Mitski is the only person left in a vast, empty countryside. The album title harmonizes with this idea.

“The frost, it looks like dust/ Settled on the world/ After everyone’s long been gone/ But me/ I was hiding/ or forgotten/The only one left/Now the world is mine alone,” Mistki sang in “The Frost”.

The overall feel of the album could be described as bare. Earthy instrumentals and organic sounds pair well with the cold wasteland Mitski paints a vivid image of. The backing vocals are haunting and hollow. 

Despite the strengths of the album, each song takes on a similar tone. The short tracks all meld into one entity, and although this may be appealing to some listeners, others may find this repetitive. Mitski’s songwriting is also abstract. She uses figurative language that requires deeper thought to understand. However, if listeners desire gritty sounds and lyrics that ooze with emotion and metaphor, mental images of barren lands, relatability, and personal experience, “The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We” may be the album for them.

 

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About the Contributor
Angelina Handris, Staff Reporter
Angelina Handris, senior, is a staff reporter for wlhsNOW. This is her second year in a media publications class. She covers arts and entertainment along with current events and is published in the literary magazine. In her free time, she enjoys thrift shopping and writes novellas. She hopes to go into marketing or media after high school. You can find her portfolio at angelinaghandris.wordpress.com.
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