Luis Mojica’s “Songs From the Land” is quite possibly one of the most romantic albums I’ve heard this year. Don’t be fooled by that statement however, because it’s not an album designed to spur imagery of love of one person to another, although the track “Strange Disease”, which has our narrator talk about the feelings awoken in him by another person, “Songs From the Land” is instead a love letter to nature and the soul and the paths they cross together. Opening track Northbound moves like a gentle stream with an almost cinematic quality that unfolds quietly before achieving a truly triumphant and bold ending that asserts itself confidently. “Colonized” is an interesting track that honestly had me a little nervous based on the title alone considering the heavy connotation that comes with it.
The whole album has a very western/southern aesthetic to it without ever committing to being a country album, and “Colonized” is probably the best example of that tone. With lines like “I’ve been colonized for far too long, how will I ever find my home”, the track immediately defines itself as a song about displacement, inverting the traditional use of the term colonize. “Trying hard to make my way back home, it is there where I begin to chan and moan” are riveting lines that also lean into the subtext of spirituality that’s highly present on the record.
For the deliberate folk trappings, it’s less Dylan and more Stevie Nicks, especially with a track like “All in Awe” which has a ponderous lyrical flow that very much reminds me of Nicks, this backed by the world music sounding influence that lingers across the track. Something that Mojica also leans into is becoming a kind of musical bard. If you have only a novice understanding of medieval times and their entertainment, surely you’re aware of the squire who plays music to tell tales of a larger world and the journeys many men have faced. Mojica is a modern version and he plays into that without any conflict. The way he describes the land and even religious figures has this playful if not somber attitude. Track “Mountains” with lines like “Take me to the long cold mountains” and even a callback to “Colonized” feel like something you’d read in a JRR Tolkien book sung by one of its elven characters. I would argue that while the front half of the album is exceptional, the backend is where the whole thing truly shines and begins to take focus.
The songwriting is tighter and Mojica’s voice is stronger and even when he can’t hit certain notes, he makes the most out of his performance by grafting it alongside palpable emotions and a closing track that really punches you in the soul. I think it’s an album that’s seemingly meant for a more niche audience that I could see have life beyond it. It’s a love letter to the land that birthed us and the human journeys we’re forced to go on, whether we like it or not.