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The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We: Mitski’s Ode to Regret

Mitski+at+Day+In+Day+Out+Music+Festival.+David+Lee%2C+Wikipedia+Commons.+
Mitski at Day In Day Out Music Festival. David Lee, Wikipedia Commons.

The small town of Valentine, Texas carries guilt in the air. Wishful thinking brings you back to a time when things were okay, but regret and the pain that comes with it follow you everywhere you go. The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We was built on this imagery. 

Described as her most “American” work, 33-year-old singer-songwriter Mitski takes inspiration from the warm sound of western, country, and folk music and puts it against her heartbreaking lyrics to create a hauntingly beautiful album. It serves as the perfect counter to her 2022 album, Laurel Hell, which used a more 80s maximalist sound to invoke feelings of both nostalgia and claustrophobia. In contrast, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We feel almost painfully empty, making it the perfect background for the album’s theme.

The album covers a myriad of topics, but the central theme seems to be regret. Songs like the first track, ‘Bug Like and Angel,’ talk about addiction and regrets about getting addicted in the first place. She sings, “Did you go and make promises you can’t keep?/Well, when ya break them, they break you right back/Amateur mistake/You can take it from me,” alluding to the fact that she ‘promised’ she would become clean but didn’t and now is suffering the consequences of her actions.

In this album, three pieces serve as a way for Mitski to reminisce on her love life. Of the three, “I’m Your Man” truly stands out and encapsulates what the album is about. In this song, she sings about herself in relation to another person saying “You’re an angel, I’m a dog/Or you’re a dog and I’m your man.” The comparison of herself to a dog tells us that she used this person while they had pure intentions and was the ‘angel’ in the relationship. In the second line, she compares the other person to a dog and herself to a man. This means that she was in control of the relationship and possibly abused that power. After this, she sings “So when you leave me, I should die/I deserve it, don’t I?” showing us the guilt she feels for mistreating this person, for treating them like a ‘dog’. In the end, she sings “You believe me like a God/I betray you like a man” juxtaposing both man with God as well as man with woman. 

Because of the things that she has done and the people she has hurt, Mitski seems to have been left alone. She talks about the hurt that comes with loneliness in songs such as The Frost. In this song, she sings, “The frost, it looks like dust/Settled on the world/After everyone’s long been gone,” pulling imagery of a post-apocalyptic world to compare her self-destructive behavior to an earth-shattering event. The last line of the song says “But you’re not here to see/It’s just witness-less me,” further enforcing the idea that she is completely alone and that if she were to continue this pattern of self-inflicted hurt, no one would be able to be her ‘witness.’

Finally, Mitski is only left with herself. She has to learn to take care of herself because now, she has no one to do it for her. She sings about the ways she chooses to love herself after the pain by saying, “Laughin’ in the mirror/Cool water in a glass/Drink it down/How I love me after you.” She finishes the song by singing, “I’m the king of all the land,” implying that she found power and autonomy within her newfound self-love.

This album guides the listener through a painful journey of hurt, regret, heartbreak, and eventually, acceptance. For me, this album was five out of five stars. Even though it was painful to listen to, hearing Mitski sing about these topics made me feel less alone; like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It showed me that we are the only ones within our minds and that at the end of the day, we are the only ones who can build ourselves back up when we are knocked down. You can listen to The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We on Spotify or Apple Music.

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About the Contributor
Isha Savi, Staff Writer
Isha is currently in 10th grade and this is her first year on the Emery’s staff! Isha is part of the Sexual Assault awareness club and in her free time she likes to listen to and read about music, watch Wes Anderson movies, and doom scroll until her eyes fall out. Isha’s favorite movie is either Moonrise Kingdom or a Silent Voice and her favorite flavor of ice cream is cookie dough.  
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    SandySep 29, 2023 at 5:44 pm

    Love your writing ❤️

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