Back in early 2015, Los Angeles indie/emo punkers Spanish Love Songs self-released their ten track debut LP, Giant Sings the Blues. The album garnered rave reviews from critics and fans alike (even making the Top Albums of 2015 list of DyingScene head honcho, Mr. X) being compared to renowned punk/alt-rockers The Menzingers. Among the many groups to take notice was Los Angeles based, independent label, Wiretap Records who promptly signed them and re-released an extended version of the acclaimed album with three additional tracks that weren’t included on the original.
Check out the full review of this thrilling, thirteen track re-release below!
The first time I listened to Spanish Love Songs a few years ago, I knew I’d be hearing more from them at some point. The music was emotionally driven, with shaky, unsettled vocals that gradually built to a rageful, unforgiving onslaught of bitterness and resentment. But more than that, what resonated most with me was the songwriting. It was so evocative and brilliantly blatant that it was almost ubiquitous. I quickly determined that it wasn’t my preferred style of punk but despite that, I was effected by it. I generally have a positive, upbeat outlook on life and tend not to dwell on the negative things in my life. But a few tracks in, I found my normally affable mood deteriorating. Like an unwanted residue that had been clinging, stubbornly to the sides of something I tried incessantly to clean but was unable to totally eradicate, the music had uprooted negative feelings that I had pushed into the recesses and shielded away from the tender parts. Now, two years later, I find myself face to face with those same uneasy feelings again.
Heartbreak, despair and loneliness are, of course a common thread, weaving the songs together into a cohesive albeit, sullen tapestry. The lone exception being the opening track, Bad Day which gives a bit of a false pretense. It has the most upbeat tone of all of the songs on the album, crammed with rapid, punk drum beats, guitar riffs that playfully, jump through simple, three chord progressions, all trimmed with perfectly harmonized choruses that aren’t quite as gloomy as some of the others. It reeks of classic pop punk, which these guys invariably are not. It’s not bad, on the contrary, it ‘s really catchy and probably one of my favorite tracks. It just has a different feel from the rest of the album and probably fits best at the opening to avoid an ill fit later in the LP.
After the first track though, the mood of the album gets a bit more dim. Stranger, Remainder and the second track Nervous People (Do you sleep better now? / With stronger pills and a stable man? / Does he whisper ‘Catherine’ in your ear as you’re falling asleep in our bed?), all highlight the morose that has become a calling card of the genre. But the musicality here is centerpiece and just as vital to the song, bolstering the passion that is erupting from the energetic front man. The lead is always the main emphasis when it comes to driving the emotions of the song, but in some instances the band behind the lead can help to add a depth that sets them apart from others. It all comes together splendidly to help intensify the roller coaster transitions from the slow, soft, more deliberate verses to the violent, painfully impassioned choruses.
Another prevailing theme is nihilism and desperate self-loathing. Dying (Lying alone in my apartment waiting to be found / Imagining a car crash, but it’ll probably be a heart attack / And sometimes I wish that I could shoot up, and slowly disappear) and Vermont (Everybody leaves eventually / Everybody breaks / Bends too late / Nobody’s happy) both brilliantly expose the sorrow and self deprecation that comes along with the loss of a loved one. Again, the music substantiates the lyrics, building with a calculated measure, until finally exploding in a self-destructive flood of unbridled indignation.
As mentioned earlier, the visualizations that the songwriting inspires is what really hooked me. The lyrics are painted in very specific, granular strokes which adds a depth that can’t be found in traditional punk albums. It’s conversational, almost like prose, so explicit that you don’t have a choice but to have the imagery forced into your head. The best example is in Concrete, (Let’s take a drive down Vermont / to where the city meets the third world / in a Ralph’s parking lot / You can watch from your side of the car) Living in LA, I thought at first it may have just been my familiarity with the city (which acts as a very prevalent backdrop for every song, creeping into the stories, like another character) but after listening more, I refuse to believe that it’s anything but the adept songwriting of lead man, Dylan Slocum. It’s unshielded, raw, real, and it’s that openness that helps to authenticate the emotion. You know it’s not a front because you can feel it. It’s palpable.
While punk may not be the best category for this young quartet, indie doesn’t fit either. There’s definitely more mass appeal than most orthodox punk acts, but it also has too much of an edge for indie. These angsty Angelinos have a sound akin to Mesa, Arizona’s elite emo act, Jimmy Eat World, dipping their toes into each pond a little, so to say. Although the album can be repetitive in it’s timbre and tone, I think that it adds to the ambiance. Dragging you down, almost in a hypnotic cadence, luring you into the dismal abyss with them. The fact that through music and simple, honest story telling, a band can illicit such a concrete emotional response, I see that as the real art of it all. Embrace the malaise.
IYL: The Menzingers, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional