OK (Heavy Machinery Records)
It’s ok not to be okay. It’s okay to say you’re not okay. It’s also okay – actually, very okay – to make an album about not being okay that allows for the complexity and occasional confusion, as well as the avenues for hope, that comes from dealing with not being okay.
Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga, who until recently was known as Mojo Juju, before shortening and apostrophising to Mo’Ju, makes her territory clear from the opening, title track and works within those boundaries for six more songs.
Musically: mid-tempo, liquid R&B that can veer into acoustic, jazz-inflected soul or machine-tooled pop that hasn’t lost its heart; sung with a close quarters voice that might be called conversational except its smooth navigation and appealing tone reflect some classy control. Production is evident but never dominant.
Lyrically: straightforward and straight-talking examination of what it’s like to be “swimming in the emptiness” when you know you’re supposed to be dealing with the shit in your head but it’s all you can do to deal with “the little things to get me through the day”; some frank expression of the need for someone to pull you out of the mud while you are driving into your own skull that “you know I did this to myself”; and understanding that “it’s just my head that needs a little coaxing” but that is only easy to say.
The solution, if that’s what it is, isn’t answers per se, but rather progress. Or, if you really want to go there and the word doesn’t make you gag like it does me, the “journey”, literally and figuratively. OK’s seven short songs pack a surprising amount of travel, in part because Mo’Ju’s densely packed lyrics address a lot in plain language, but also because each song has a natural rhythmic momentum that never weighs you down.
That’s why it is really a record for the road, for turning off as much as turning away, and letting the movement and the distance lock you into some actions-without-thinking. The kind of thing that turns out to actually make thinking come easily, like these songs make understanding easier.
Mind you, you would have to put this 22-minute little gem on repeat to get any further than your local supermarket. But I suspect you’re not going to mind that all.