Criminal, The Soft Moon's fourth studio album, is a confessional work. Through the stark lens of shame and guilt that has followed Luis Vasquez since a violent childhood growing up within the humming ambient sprawl of '80s Mojave Desert, here he documents the gut-wrenching sound of going to war with himself. Battling with his own sanity, self-hatred, insecurity, self-entitlement and grappling with the risk of these things transforming him into a person he despises, Vasquez has laid his feelings bare with this: his confession and most self-reflective work to date.
"Guilt is my biggest demon and has been following me since childhood. Everything I do strengthens the narrative that I am guilty," Vasquez reflects. "The concept of Criminal is a desperate attempt to find relief by both confessing to my wrongdoings and by blaming others for their wrongdoings that have affected me." Criminal marks a striking and important chapter in his self-exploration, both artistically and emotionally. As a young musician living in Oakland, Vasquez began to try and process the narrative of his difficult upbringing veiled through musical exploration.
Working with producer Maurizio Baggio at La Distilleria in Bassano Del Grappa, Italy, Criminal sees Vasquez putting his lyrics at the forefront and letting his raw emotions flow. The album begins with a confrontation with his true self through the torrid bass lines and searing vocals of "Burn," a song evoking a loss of control akin to demonic possession, stating: "Eyes, reflecting the person that I am, and it burns". In this track, Vasquez's guilt bores deeper and deeper into a condemnation that ultimately is: "Fire, hell is where I'll go to live, so I burn.
The album is Vasquez's way of holding himself accountable and seeking redemption for the abuse he inflicts on himself, and acknowledges roots in the abuse which, inflicted upon him as a child, broke him.