Luis Mojica’s Songs from the Land concludes the New York based singer/songwriter’s initial trio of albums. His 2016 full-length debut Wholesome scored Mojica a surprising sales success straight out of the gate undoubtedly aided by touring with avant-garde cello ensemble Rasputina. He doesn’t rush his work. Mojica’s sophomore release, the Simone Felice/David Baron produced collection How a Stranger Is Made, has the songwriter relying less on his talents as a pianist in favor of collaboration. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Evan Glenn Adams’s influence on the album’s ten tracks is inestimable. Mojica’s music doesn’t utilize a bevy of instruments, but its selections are uniformly excellent.
It is inescapable that some of the songs will be more successful than others. I prefer songs with well-defined structures or shapes rather than more nebulous cumulative efforts. Songs from the Land leans more towards the former than the latter, but the opener “Northbound” is hardly tethered to earth. There is an abbreviated melody present, it’s one of his signature characteristics, but this sounds much more like an impressive demo rather than an album opener.
Of course, you can hear it from a different way. A good reviewer asks what the artist’s intentions are. My crystal ball is in the shop, probably for good, and my mindreading powers are no great shakes. I assume, however, with a reasonable amount of confidence Mojica believes he accomplished exactly what he wanted. The minimalist approach adopted on much of the album works well but doesn’t serve some tracks as well as others.
“Colonized” is exceptional. It’s written from a first person point of view, I like how Mojica closes any potential distance between his songwriting and listeners with small moves such as that, and the language is shaped as ever. His talents are substantial but I doubt you will ever hear Mojica fall in love with the sound of his own voice as a writer. His focus is impressive elsewhere but particularly shines during “Colonized”.
Mojica’s delicate keyboard contributions, acoustic guitar, and violin intertwine with magical results during “Mountains”. The aural landscape is pristine and wrought like precise needlework, each line turning into the next, creating a dream-like tapestry for listeners to follow. It’s one of the most exquisite musical moments you’ll hear in 2021. I’m impressed with the variety of drum/percussion sounds he achieves with this release. The snare like snap setting the pulse for “Strange Disease” provides the perfect intermittent heartbeat for this slowly simmering song. The lyrics are among his most direct on the album and aching underlines every line.
“White Lies” purrs along with the same introspective meditative mood defining the earlier songs but there’s a slight emphasis on atmospherics missing elsewhere. He envelops the tracks in across the board atmosphere, a sort of half-whispered elegance guiding much of the release, but it never comes cheap.
“Pine Child” is another outstanding track, just as inward-looking, but radiating the same intelligence and innate command of beauty. Mojica has an artist’s soul and his songwriting, here and elsewhere, adroitly balances autobiographical impulses, musical imagination, eagerness to entertain, and mature artistry in a way few songwriters ever achieve. I can’t recommend Songs from the Land enough.
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