As the summer fades away, our favorite indie singer-songwriter Mitski is back, just in time with another collection of heartfelt, melancholic ballads to add to your fall playlist. Her seventh studio album, "The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We," comes on the heels of a busy couple of years for the artist.
Despite the pressure of a rapidly growing fanbase and rumors about a potential retirement swirling throughout the music industry, Mitski returns with her most focused and realized work yet. She makes it abundantly clear to listeners throughout the album that she's here to stay.
What immediately separates this newest album from her others is the sudden shift in genres. Mitski's previous album, "Laurel Hell," felt like a doubling down on her signature synth-pop style, leading to predictable results.
While the album wasn't bad by any means, it was more of the same, which left me feeling a little disappointed — a rare feeling in my experience with her work.
This new record, on the other hand, signals a significant turning point in her career. She's not only grown as a person but also evolved as an artist, displaying more of a willingness to take risks and embrace a new direction.
Mitski takes a sharp turn toward country and folk in this latest project, a choice that, in retrospect, feels like a no-brainer. She's played around with these musical elements and threads throughout her career, most notably on "Be the Cowboy," but here, she leaves no stone unturned.
While her heart-wrenching lyrics used to create a captivating contrast with her upbeat pop sound, they now fit snugly against the backdrop of the desolate American West.
She uses this new sound and atmosphere to its fullest potential, utilizing the imagery of the Western U.S. to segue into the album's themes of isolation and love. She invests meaning into every facet of her environment, including what might seem trivial, like a squashed bug representing decay and stagnation on the opening track, "Bug Like an Angel."
The following tracks, "Buffalo Replaced" and "Heaven," continue to immerse listeners within this new landscape while also exploring the serenity that comes with nature, as opposed to the chaos of city life.
After a relatively calm and restrained opening to the album, the next track, "I Don't Like My Mind," spins everything on its head and amounts to the most memorable moment on the entire album. Here, Mitski gives a haunting vocal performance as she indulges her darkest thoughts while she is alone, sparking a dangerous cycle of self-destruction.
Even though the sound and atmosphere of her music may have changed, Mitski's music is still as soul-crushing and relatable as ever.
While I found these first few songs on this album to be the strongest, the following tracks manage to keep up the momentum and dive deeper into some of the album's other core themes, examining relationships through the lens of an artist and their fans.
This is most apparent in "The Deal" and "When Memories Snow," where Mitski seems to turn her attention to the audience, addressing the symbiotic relationship they've built with one another. Despite her past frustrations with the industry and her fans, she's realized that just as she offers a therapeutic escape and outlet for them, they make her feel heard.
The seventh track, "My Love Mine All Mine," is another highlight of the album. Here, she shifts the focus back toward the theme of romantic relationships, crafting a slow, ethereal ballad, yearning for eternal love.
The new batch of songs, "The Frost," "Star" and "I'm Your Man," mark other strong points on the album as Mitski grapples with the pain and self-reflection that comes with losing someone that once meant everything to you.
The album culminates in the surprisingly uplifting and dreamy track "I Love Me After You." After spending the majority of the album exploring her fears of being alone, she shows her growth as she learns to accept that it's important to learn to love herself before she can love someone else.
"The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We" simultaneously feels like familiar ground and a new beginning for Mitski. It examines themes and concepts that have long defined her illustrious career, but the new country and folk-inspired musical identity injects a vibrant energy into her work, resulting in what has become my favorite album from her discography.