Though conservative in his approach to the harmony in “Cowboys,” “Witch Love” and “Queen Song,” Luis Mojica isn’t afraid to show us a little bit of aesthetical experimentation in “City Friends,” “Invoked” and “The Ranger,” all of which can be heard on his second studio effort, the poignant How a Stranger Is Made. How a Stranger Is Made is an album defined by its joyfully inconsistent sonic landscape; while some tracks, like “De La Saint,” quietly crush us with pastoral poeticisms, others, like the sadistically trance-like “Stranger Song,” are much more blunt and forceful with their melodic dispensing. The bottom line? Luis Mojica’s new LP isn’t for the casual pop fan, but for those whom it was designed to please, it’s a personal watershed for its starring singer/songwriter.
There’s been a ton of surrealism effecting the general direction of American indie rock in the last five years, and though I would say that How a Stranger Is Made fits in with this trend exceptionally well, I wouldn’t agree with any critics who would claim Mojica is applying trade standards to any of his songcraft in this release. He’s applying elements of the aesthetic to the harmonies in “Stranger Song” (especially around the 6-minute mark), the swing of “Insane” and thrusting groove of “Witch Love” in a way that I just can’t picture any of his closest rivals attempting, all without ever having to lean on the classic rock formulas that many of today’s college radio darlings would develop an entire LP around.
I would have liked just a bit more emphasis on the vocal in the mix in “City Friends” and “Moon Men,” mostly because I think that the singing Mojica presents us with in this pair of songs is some of the best he’s ever committed to master tape. He’s got an amazing range that we get to hear free of annoying filtrations in “Insane,” “The Ranger” and “Queen Song,” but I do feel like he could have exploited it a little more in the aforementioned tracks to create more of his signature sparks. When I listen to one of his songs, I want to feel all of the energy that his singing can produce, because at its most climactic, his voice could crumble even the hardest hearts of stone.
It’s not without a couple of minor surface flaws here and there, but all in all, I think that Luis Mojica’s How a Stranger Is Made is a must-listen in 2020 for anyone who loves the alternative beat. The American underground has never sounded or felt as alive with diversity as it does today, and with artists like Mojica leading the charge into a new era of experimentation ala the music we hear on this LP, I think it would be safe to say that we can expect a lot more excitement left of the dial in this presently-unfolding decade. I’ll be keeping this singer/songwriter on my radar, and I would seriously recommend that you consider doing the same.