Love, Melancholy, Soul: Is Mitski’s New Album the Perfect Fall Album?, by John Waterhouse
Mitski released her newest album, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, Sept. 15. The album came right in time for the fall season as Mitski sets our hearts ablaze on a cold day with her trademark intensity and tenderness. Her lyricism covers the ups and downs of love, the weight of being true to herself and the frantic search for anything to call her own. Mitski’s stylistic choices and tragic themes on this album make it the perfect fall album.
Mitski’s style is remarkably special as always, now with folk and country influences. Throughout the album, the musical formula takes on a stomp-clap beat set with a strumming acoustic guitar, among other clear folk influences. Still, her mix of powerful synths and silk-like vocals make this unique from any other artist. This neo-folk style is totally made for Mitski, and it sets a wonderful tone for the fall months.
A great example of this is “Heaven,” which takes on a western-swing steel guitar, bringing the classic twangy and winding sound found throughout classic country. She merges this with the stomp-clap beat, acoustic guitar and violins, marking an entirely new point for neo-folk music.
Or listen in on “Buffalo Replaced,” the song that makes the most use of this stomp-clap beat set with acoustic guitars on the whole album. This beat appears time and time again throughout the album, taking heavy influences from country and folk where it caught traction. Mitski takes it and warps it into an entirely new style that is uniquely her own, something reminiscent of the cold fall months and crunching leaves.
Finally, “The Frost” takes on all of these unique stylistic elements and creates something that sounds like a cowboy waltz. It is clear by this point that Mitski is not just accidentally finding these sounds but meticulously forming her very own genre from other stylistic influences. The whole new sound feels perfect for cold days, pumpkin patches and early sunsets.
This style choice is ideal for the changing seasons. The folk inspiration is reminiscent of bonfires and the outdoors. Furthermore, the lyrics reference winter, wild animals and a lonesome Christmas. For me, this is an album meant for a nosedive into the fall.
Mitski’s lyricism is at its best on this album as she proves herself the master of metaphors and dramatic themes. She uses repeated and complex comparisons about the cosmos, cool weather and soul in the album. Themes are adaptable and tragic as she ponders self, self-loathing and the intense nature of love. Truly, Mitski shows off her ability as a powerful and alluring lyricist.
Throughout the album, topics of self-loathing are juxtaposed with the change of the seasons, and the elements of cool weather are used to convey this idea. The aspects of self-loathing set a tone for the fall months as seasonal depression and general dreariness sets in. This becomes obvious with her descriptions of the elements in these months, using frost and snow many times.
“The Deal” narrates Mitski’s attempt to trade her soul, not for anything specifically in return, but simply to get rid of it. This is a clear commentary on self-loathing and how difficult it is to just be ourselves. Sometimes, it feels like it could be better to just not deal with it at all and disown our own soul altogether.
“I Don’t Like My Mind” is a more obvious song about this subject from the title alone. She describes self-loathing by using a story about eating a cake alone on Christmas and proceeding to get sick. It is a simple but powerful idea, which she uses to grapple with negative feelings in the cold seasons. More still, she uses it to grapple with something to have, whether it be her own soul, career or just someone to love.
The use of cold seasons comes up time and time again, such as in “The Frost.” The song reflects simply on loneliness and alienation from others, using frost to cover a world that seems untouched. She even compares frost to dust that has settled after the whole world seems to have disappeared. This powerful imagery evokes the feeling of early mornings in the fall, when the whole world seems unmoving, pristine and, most importantly, peacefully alone.
“When Memories Snow” uses this idea again, comparing the accumulation of heartfelt memories to snow piling up in the driveway. The snow just keeps falling, and we just have to keep on shoveling, going through these tough feelings. Ultimately, when the snow melts away, Mitski feels liberated to keep up the lonely habit of songwriting. The use of both frost and snow are obvious calls to the colder seasons of the year when feelings of self-loathing and troublesome loneliness overwhelm us.
Mitski covers the intensity of falling in and out of love throughout the album, a trademark for the artist. The use of seasons to discuss love is obvious in Mitski’s past music, take for instance “First Love Late Spring.” If spring is the season of fertility and falling in love, Mitski contrasts fall as the time of decay and fading love.
“My Love Mine All Mine” has already gained plenty of attraction, and for good reason. Through the slow and sweet ballad, Mitski reflects on the tenderness and immensity of love. Even when she has nothing else, love will stay right there. Mitski goes as far as to offer her heart to the moon, so when she dies, her love will continue to shine. The song is sweet and tender, as Mitski finally has something to call her own.
Continuing on the topic of love, “Star” covers another cosmic-love metaphor. She fervently sings about a love that has faded and how it feels to bask in the remaining light. Even after it is gone, there is still something beautiful to hold onto. The burning star metaphor gives us hope as we look off into the autumn sky.
Mitski finishes her ideas of love in loathing and desolation. The strumming acoustic of “I’m Your Man” forebodes love as Mitski reflects on feeling unworthy. She betrays her love like man betrays God. The song breaks down into the sounds of chirping frogs, barking dogs and chattering crickets as she professes that she may never be loved again.
She finishes the album with a simple song about self-care after her failed love, “I Love Me After You.” She sings about putting herself first and declares herself “king of all the land.” Here, we should recall the album’s title — Mitski is calling herself the ruler of the inhospitable. It is a tragic message sent over the same pseudo-country stomp-clap acoustics.
The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We is the perfect sound for a heartfelt fall. Mitski’s use of neo-folk elements and remarkable lyricism make this album totally unique and a classic in her discography. The next time the blues, cold winds and crunchy leaves of this time of year creep in, give this album a listen and find out how this is the perfect fall album.