With the end of summer and the coming of fall colliding, many artists look to September for album releases and new music. This month has seen releases from musicians dominating the charts, such as the emerging pop talents of Olivia Rodrigo and the often-heartbreaking indie ballads of Mitski.
Olivia Rodrigo returns with her sophomore album GUTS, a pop album featuring familiar references to pop-punk and indie, only two years after her debut album SOUR.
Once again Rodrigo attempts to create a sense of relatability to her predominantly teen audience, poking fun at the melodrama of adolescence and growing pains that often accompany ideas of young love.
She also contributes glimpses of insecurity and confusion young people take on when emerging into adulthood, for example, questions about power struggles and the sense of self that is sometimes lost in romantic relationships.
GUTS can be minimized to a breakup album to many, but in truth, GUTS comes through as more of a confession, that although Olivia Rodrigo herself seems to live a life her fans may envy, with fame, love, and admiration, she faces the same daily battles of self-doubt and embarrassment.
Embarrassment is a common theme Rodrigo tackles, with one track being titled ‘Love is Embarrassing’ and another song titled ‘Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl’ where she delves into the inner thoughts of those who seem to find themselves in awkward social situations such as “Why did I say that?” or “Do I stick out too much?” no doubt capturing what is simply the teenage experience.
GUTS takes listeners on a similar journey of ups and downs as Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR, with some songs feeling more upbeat and pop-punk and others being more whispered indie ballads, each with vulnerable and devasting lyrics you can either scream or cry to.
Touring for GUTS will begin in North America in the winter, with a Europe and UK tour commencing in the spring of 2024.
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
Mitski surprised her fan base with her seventh studio album, eerily titled The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We. Mitski remains mostly absent from social media while most artists advertise their work heavily on such platforms. In previous statements, Mitski suggested moving away from producing and creating new music due to the pressures and manipulations of the industry, however she has since retracted these remarks due to progress and agreements made in relationship with her recording label.
Her last album, from 2022, Laurel Hell felt like a farewell, however in The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, there is familiarity and comfort even in its darker and gloomy themes, as this is what Mitski does best. People look to Mitski for a sadness that bites, ballads that leave listeners satisfied especially in times of woe.
Mitski first released singles from The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, with tracks ‘Bug Like an Angel’, and ‘Heaven’, the latter trending on platforms such as TikTok at exceeding rates.
Finally, the album was released in full on September 15, less than two months after its initial promotion, hardly giving fans time to prepare emotionally.
Mitski’s low whispers work well with her choice of orchestral accompaniment and choral background singers, especially in the first single, ‘Bug Like an Angel’.
‘Bug Like an Angel’ plays out like a raw confession, admissions of sedating rough emotions with substances and the honesty that comes with determining the source of said emotions. Mitski’s voice is raw and stripped down through this track, with support from a choir repeating phrases throughout, acting as an echo of Mitski’s inner thoughts.
Tracks such as ‘I Don’t Like My Mind’, another confessional track with low notes, shifts towards a more enraged and tired tone, as if coming to terms with Mitski’s own actions and feelings of defeat. This track has hints of southern twang, taking inspiration from the atmosphere of one of the album’s recording bases in Nashville, Tennessee, which is also where Mitski herself resides.
The album ends with a declaration, ‘I love Me After You’, addressing the truth of self-love after what may have been an unbalanced relationship. The story and overall feeling of the song builds throughout, like an invasion or descent into battle. Mitski must abandon outside opinion and go forth with a promise to herself, returning to her roots while remaining honest to the fact humans tend to change.
The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We may be similar to Mitski’s earlier albums, with familiar themes and rawness, but she comes through even stronger in her directness in her voice and messaging.
Touring will commence in the United States at the start of 2024 featuring opening acts such as Australian Folk Rock singer Julia Jacklin, Belgian-Egyptian artist Tamino, local Nashville soul musician Sunny War, and fellow American singer Sarah Kinsley.