Mitski: The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We

“Texas Reznikoff.” “A Horse Named Cold Air.” “Your Best American Girl.” 

The discography of Mitski, an Asian American artist, explores the motif of western culture in relations to her identity, most evidently with her album Be the Cowboy. Through several interviews, she has expressed her approach towards combating imposter syndrome, which is done through placing herself in quite possibly the most American caricature possible: a cowboy. Masculine, overly confident, and white. Rather than feeling apologetic about taking up space, acowboy makes it their mission to assert their presence.

With the release of her seventh album, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, Mitski describes it as her “most American album.” It strikes similarities with Be the Cowboy, while simultaneously offering opposing narratives—particularly regarding loneliness. In an NPR interview, Mitski states, “I’m always trying to figure out what it means to be American. But especially with this album, I think I’m trying to reconcile all my various identities with being American today. I feel like I’ve always been seeing my own identities through the eyes of other people who haven’t lived my identities.” Writing through the perspective of a married woman in “Me and My Husband”, we are also taken through lens of an alcoholic in the album’s opener, “Bug Like an Angel”. Mitski thoughtfully crafts these story lines to depict the diversity of people that walk through the plethora of emotions she experiences.

“Bug Like an Angel”stands out when compared to her previous discography, for it features a choir that joins in during the line “family.” With the light and airy atmosphere created through Mitski’s vocals and the acoustics, the introduction of the choir brings amongst it a rush of warm air, enacting an embrace by a community with open arms. I interpret community as one that is not exclusively biological, like a chosen family where despite the lack of blood ties, love is still undeniable. This contrasts with the themes present in “Me and My Husband”, where codependence and loneliness tie the narrator down. Evidently with the choir and lyrics referencing God, the song surrounds religious tones. This a common motif found within other songs like “Heaven” and “I’m Your Man”. “Heaven” stands out due to its strong orchestral arrangement. It creates an indescribable calming atmosphere, mimicking the very title of the song. 

“My Love Mine All Mine”, the most recognizable song on the album, is one of the clearest showcases of her growth. Through countless romances, strained familial relationships, times of loneliness, and all the things that come with living, Mitski emphasizes here how her love surpasses those bounds. 

I heavily resonated with this song because it shifts the source of value from another being, to the love that you can give others. I have been in situations where I regret being vulnerable and loving another person. It builds up feelings of guilt, where I blame myself for trusting them, and believing their intentions. However, there is nothing wrong with merely wanting to show love and care. Although you cannot control the actions of others, you can control the people you allow into your environment. You can decide who you give your love to, for it is sacred and only belongs to you. It surpasses your physical state. 

My favorite song on the album is “I Love Me After You”, which follows the same theme as before. Through a “Behind the Song” YouTube video, Mitski describes her hesitation towards suggestions from her producer, Patrick Hyland, who has helped produced all her albums except Lush. Mitski struggled to go beyond the initial version of the song that she became familiar with. This is analogous to our own interpersonal relationships, where we often stick with people that display patterns that we are most familiar with, even if we’re aware of the harm it can cause. 

She states, “I don’t know about you but I love familiar things… so sooner or later, I just got so used to the version that’s just the acoustic guitar and voice… I knew deep down with this track; it would be something else and I was just getting in my own way. So eventually, [he] convinced me to do the version that it is today, which I’m glad he did.” Everyone loves clinging to familiar things, but it often dismisses the options that may best contribute to their greater interest. It takes awareness and courage to embrace choices that don’t feel familiar, but one must recognize it as a pivotal spot in their growth. 

This album is a statement on self-love, where one can learn to love all their great traits, to a point where being alone isn’t a dreaded feeling, but rather the person you should be giving the most of your love to. 

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