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Jackie Mendoza has packed a lot of life into 26 years. She’s been a resident of Mexico, California, and New York. She’s created two minor pop hits with “Islands” and “La Luz.” And now, with the release of her debut EP LuvHz, she’s worked with one of avant-indie’s oddest producers, Rusty Santos (who worked on Panda Bear’s latest, Buoys). That collective experience could have fed into a pop project defined by a strong sensibility and pointed perspective on the world. Instead, LuvHz is aimless.

That aimlessness may be the result of Mendoza’s effort to make music more distinct than those aforementioned hits, which in hindsight seem calculated to take advantage of the market’s hunger for bilingual, dancehall-adjacent pop. The EP’s opening track, “Mucho Más,” signals an intentional shift. It begins with the glitchy sounds of crickets and a hazy summer night as Mendoza chants the EP’s only earworm, “Mucho más, más allá.” Eventually, a swollen reggaetón beat thuds into the forefront and Mendoza rides it out until it dissolves along with her voice, a harbinger of what’s to come.

It’s thrilling to hear a Latinx artist manipulating the sounds of reggaetón into something less conventional, but nothing so clever is found elsewhere on the EP. Like much of LuvHz, “Mucho Más” is a vibe, not a bop. Co-produced by Mendoza and Santos, LuvHz’s anti-pop is in its own abrasive way quintessentially 2019: a restless patchwork of genre-smashing sounds, all layered atop one another and then smothered in clouds of reverb. The signature here is not mutated beats but Santos’ beloved underwater percussion, and no track conveys drowning more than “Seahorse.” It’s a dirge of a song, floating along on samples of babbling water and Mendoza’s pleading vocals but never managing to go anywhere.


- Pitchfork