The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We | Album Review

By Charlotte Stone 

‘The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We’ is a poignant and vulnerable exploration of human experience that hits hard – in all the right ways. 

Mitski Miyawaki, known more commonly as Mitski, is an American singer-songwriter connecting to audiences with vulnerable, raw music full of an immense heart and yearning since 2012 with her first self-released album, “Lush”. The 32-year-old tackles complex themes with a mature eye, spanning the experience of a Japanese-American woman through to mental illness, loneliness and struggles in love. 

After declaring her music career over in 2019 and announcing plans to “find another life”, Mitski ended up making a return in 2020 with ‘Laurel Hell’, and has since recorded for the “Everything Everywhere All At Once” soundtrack. Mitski’s albums feel like an intimate, private and heartfelt experience rather than the more typical commercialised music of today, and her latest project is no different. Her vulnerabilities never fail to connect with people, and this is certainly true of, ‘The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We’.

Despite being the first single, ‘Bug Like An Angel’ remains the star of the show for me amidst the album’s full catalogue. This track puts choral backing vocals to good use, proving time and time again that sometimes less is more. Mitski’s relaxed and stripped vocals are joined with nothing but the slow strum of a guitar and a choir that comes to life only on certain lyrics, a poignant exploration of alcoholism that introduces the mellow atmosphere of ‘The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We’ perfectly. 

Mitski demonstrates clever mastery of a vast emotional landscape – from pure and complete love (Star) yearning and loneliness (The Deal) and raw self-reflectiveness (I Don’t Like My Mind), just to name a few. The album’s vibrant, cinematic production complements her light and somewhat angelic voice – perfectly fitting considering the out-of-body experience provoked by some of these tunes, such as ‘Heaven’ (another of my personal favourites) and ‘Star’.

Songs like these transport listeners into a glittery, expansive yearning, while others such as ‘Buffalo Replaced’ are grounding and bring you back down to earth.

Nothing explains Mitski’s vision here than her Spotify description: 

“The best thing I ever did in my life was to love people’, she says… She hopes her newest album… will shine love long after she’s gone. That’s precisely how it feels: like a love that’s haunting the land.” And it’s particularly true that the music feels like viewing the wounds of human life – not just the hope and the love, but all of its “private sorrows and contradictions” too.  

If you’re still feeling some winter blues, this album is definitely the kind that will get you laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. It’s hard not to feel a little bit melancholic over heartfelt songs filled to the brim with longing, vulnerability and brutal honesty. But it’s a pleasant and gentle melancholy.

It feels like a healthy sadness, a coming-to-terms with such a variety of pains that most people will find something to relate to. 

Mitski’s heartfelt lyricism is poetic and highly metaphorical, utilising figurative language and symbolism to impart meaning. It’s hard not to be immersed in her wit and wistful yearning, with tracks like ‘I’m Your Man’ saying:

“I can feel it gettin’ near

Like flashlights comin’ down the way

One day you’ll figure me out 

I’ll meet judgement by the hounds.” 

‘The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We’ confronts listeners slowly and subtly, presenting less of a rude awakening and more of a slow, relaxed exploration of tenderness. If you’re looking for something to pump you up, this might not be for you – but if you need an excuse to revel in some sadness and reconnect with your emotions, this latest offering from Mitski is the right fit.