“The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” comes on the heels of tumultuous years for Mitski. Following some mainstream success after “Be the Cowboy,” Mitski announced that she was going on an indefinite hiatus.

That certainly did not stop her from becoming an indie darling. After she gained even more prominence on TikTok, Mitski returned with “Laurel Hell,” an album she was contractually obligated to create for her label Dead Oceans. Despite speculation that it would be her final album, she returned on her own terms.

Mitski realized that she wanted to continue creating music — according to Pitchfork, she was willing to take the “difficult stuff with the wonderful stuff — like any … worthwhile thing in life.” So where “Laurel Hell” was a work that seemed to ready Mitski for an increasing distance from the limelight, “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” fully realizes the duality of humanhood, the inescapable good coupled with the inescapable bad. For Mitski, the album is in an attempt to make the love she has “created [and] built” in her external world, with the hopes that “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” will represent that love even when she’s gone. It reflects the innumerable ways that the love we create, share and lack makes us who we are.

The album starts low with the plucky chords and a keen chorus of “Bug Like an Angel.” Mitski singing “sometimes a drink feels like family” suggests that she is trying hard to find closeness, even as she breaks her promises and they break her right back. Despite this, she keeps hope, singing in “Buffalo Replaced” that nothing can hurt her while she still has hope. It might sometimes be easier to abandon hope, but Mitski works hard on the song and keeps it alive.

This back-and-forth between the hopelessness of love and yearning for it continues throughout the album without becoming overwrought.

Tracks seven and 10, “My Love Mine All Mine” and “I’m Your Man,” demonstrate this dichotomy at its best. In “My Love Mine All Mine,” Mitski makes a country lullaby out of the fleeting nature of life and the wish to keep her love shining long after she’s gone. Serenading “nothing in the world belongs to me / but my love, mine, all mine, all mine,” Mitski makes good on her central theme of the album — to leave behind the best of herself and the love she chose to nurture and hold dear in her heart.

In “I’m Your Man,” she considers the fact that as much as you can fall in love, you can also fail at it. She finds herself no longer the object of another’s affection and her sense of self-worth collapsing, as she writes, “So, when you leave me, I should die / I deserve it, don’t I?” Believing herself worthy of punishment, she apologizes to her lover, regretting that she had been unable to reciprocate their love. Even as she yearns for it, Mitski sings of the difficulties in keeping love alive, regardless of the tiring efforts. The stories Mitski sings about are familiar ones, not the blockbuster movie version of life, but the quiet and desperate moments that we all know too well.

In “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” we find ourselves surrounded by the outside world. Where Mitski’s previous albums tended to focus solely on the subject, usually love, at hand, “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” is fascinated by what is going on outside the singer’s bedroom. From midnight walks to personifying rain, the narrator tries to find a balance between the love they wish for and their worry that they will not be able to keep it once found.

Mitski does eventually make peace with love. In “Star,” the narrator is able to commiserate with their former lover about their past together. Their love is “like a star / it’s gone, we just see it shining.” She finds that love is not just its brightest moments, but also the impact it has on us when it’s gone.

The final track of the album, “I Love Me After You,” revels in Mitski’s newfound independence upon becoming single. More comfortable with herself than ever, she sings of walking around her house naked, without a care in the world. This is a strong departure from a previous song “Blue Light,” in which her nakedness served to convey how much she yearned for love. Now, she welcomes the darkness both outside her windows and inside of herself, unafraid of what either could bring.

Mitski’s seventh album possesses unexpected self-assurance. While previous works ended in stagnancy like the hopeless “Last Words of a Shooting Star” or the regretful “Class of 2013,” “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” ends having considered the good and bad of love and having made peace with it.

With such striking lyrics, powerful vocals from both Mitski and the 17-person choir found on “Bug Like an Angel” and the wonderful instrumentation from a full orchestra, the glamor of the album is never understated. The songs function both individually and all together, allowing listeners to find their favorites and listen to them on repeat. It’s an album that demands multiple listens with its ability to draw you back into the trials and tribulations of Mitski.

Both comforting and piercing, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” is no doubt one of Mitski’s best albums and a stepping stone in her musical career.

Rating: 5/5