by Erin Bensinger (@_babybluet)
Jackie Mendoza’s debut EP is a powerful refusal to exist in any one box. The cleverly titled LuvHz, out now on Luminelle Records, effortlessly blends lo-fi synth pop sensibilities with reggaeton club beats to form songs that would feel just as much at home on the dancefloor as they would underwater. Mendoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico, raised in Chula Vista, California, and is currently based in NYC; naturally, she writes lyrics in both Spanish and English, weaving seamlessly between the two as she opens up about the complexities of romantic relationships and attraction.
The album opener, “Mucho Más,” is a headlong dive into Mendoza’s unique sound, which she describes as “ukulele electro pop.” The track begins with a dark, wet synth beat, which grows more and more distorted as the song’s layers build: the reggaeton drum machine, glitchy sound effects, and finally, Mendoza’s voice, asserting that there’s “mucho más, más allá” — so much more out there. It’s the perfect introduction to the artist’s debut collection.
Mendoza primarily writes and performs her music on the ukulele, but you wouldn’t know it just from listening to LuvHz. Each track is layered and ambient, rippling with reverb from the artist’s vocals and textures that are hard to pinpoint even after multiple listens. The soundscapes might strike a familiar tone for fans of Animal Collective — the EP was recorded and co-produced by frequent AnCo collaborator Rusty Santos.
The EP’s lead single, “Seahorse,” is a major standout. It’s a shimmering, psychedelic meditation on love through the lens of the sea creature itself (famous, as you may know, for equitable relationships in which the male gives birth while the female scouts for food and shelter). The track is lush and layered; Mendoza’s modulated vocals float amid a sea of ambient noise and bubbles, solidifying the song’s aquatic theme. By the time it’s over, you’ll be hungry to hit repeat and dive back in.